Citroen's Sebastien Ogier managed to increase his lead slightly on the Super Specials this evening.
Ogier had to settle for third in the first run through the short 2.21 km test, conceding 0.5 seconds to his team-mate, Sebastien Loeb. However he won the repeat, SS10, and will now go into day two with a 2.3 second cushion. The stewards also elected to take no action after he made a mistake post-SS5 and went straight to service instead of the re-group. Although he realised his error and then went to the re-group there had been fears he might still be penalised.
“My strategy was simple. I had to push as hard as possible today,” Ogier reflected. “Our fourth position on the road wasn't too bad but not ideal in that the other DS3 WRCs started just behind me. In these conditions, the fact that I've been quicker than Petter and Seb all day makes me very happy.
“It'll be a lot more difficult tomorrow as I have to open the road. I'm not in the best position to win the rally, but I don't have any other choice. I'm going to continue pushing as hard as I can.”
“I couldn't really have hoped for much better on the first day,” Loeb added. “My aim was not to be in the lead this evening. The situation soon became pretty clear where our rivals were concerned, and the rally quickly turned into a scrap with Sébastien.
“I think we were both going flat out and the next round looks interesting. We'll have to see how much sweeping influences things. With the new cars and the Michelin tyres I have the impression that the gaps are smaller than in the past. I can't wait for tomorrow!”
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is the lead Ford and is currently on course for the final place on the podium, albeit more than a minute off the fight for P1. The Finn is looking forward to day two though, as he will no longer have to sweep the roads.
“I'm in a good position and the shoe will be on the other foot tomorrow, because the guys ahead will have to sweep the gravel,” Hirvonen stated. “I need to focus 100 per cent and attack hard to try to regain the time lost through the conditions. This morning the roads were slippery but things went better than I thought, and I lost less time than I did in the same situation last year.
“It was more difficult than I expected this afternoon because the roads were still slippery. I was cautious with the risks I took because I still lack experience of the car and Michelin's tyres on gravel.
“But the whole package feels really strong so early in the season. The car was good on this surface and was very agile in narrow, twisty sections. The high altitude meant less power and I couldn't carry speed through corners in the way I would like, but that was the same for everyone,” he added.