Sebastien Ogier has taken a slender lead on Rally Australia after beating team-mate Sebastien Loeb to top spot on the two runs through the Coffs Harbour superspecial on Thursday evening.
Ogier was fastest on the first run through the short stage before Loeb led the way through the repeat run. However, it is Ogier who will take an advantage into the first day proper, with the Citroen pair split by 0.6 seconds going into Friday's stages.
“It was a good start but the real start is tomorrow,” Ogier said. “It was quite slippery and not easy to find the right rhythm. The car is good so I'm happy.”
Behind the two Citroen drivers, Jari-Matti Latvala was third fastest and best of the Fords, setting a time 2.8secs down on Ogier through the opening two stages. Team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was fourth fastest, 3.1secs further back.
"The road was mostly damp and there were a few places where it was slippery under braking, but it was better than I expected,” Latvala said. “The grip was good. Tomorrow's opening stage is the most demanding of the rally so it will be a big wake-up call. But tonight I will go to bed with a smile!"
Petter Solberg was fifth quickest ahead of brother Henning, with the top completed by Evgeny Novikov, Peter van Merksteijn, Matthew Wilson and Daniel Oliviera.
Wilson picked up slight damage to a front wing after a spin on the first run through the stage.
Rally Australia – Top 10 (after SS2):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 00hr 05mins 27.3secs
2. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 00.6secs
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 02.8secs
4. Mikko Hirvonen
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 05.9secs
5. Petter Solberg
PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 07.0secs
6. Henning Solberg
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 09.8secs
7. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 11.3secs
8. Peter van Merksteijn
Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 11.9secs
9. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 12.6secs
10. Daniel Oliviera
Brazil WRT MINI John Cooper Works +00mins 18.7secs
11. Ken Block
Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 22.4secs
12. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 25.7secs
PWRC – Top 3:
1. Michal Kociusko
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 00hr 05min 54.2secs
2. Nathan Quinn
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00min 01.7secs
3. Jukka Ketomaki
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00min 02.1secs
all times unofficial