Dani Sordo has finished the opening leg of Rallye de France on top, moving up from third to first in the final stage of the day, when he set the pace in Salm 2.
It was a day of firsts for the MINI World Rally Team and off the back of Sordo's strong third in Germany last month the Spaniard was again on it. Indeed he took the team's first scratch time in SS6 - when he was joint fastest with Petter Solberg - and he then gave MINI an outright stage win in SS8, a result that put the John Cooper Works WRC car at the head of the overall leaderboard for the very first time.
Sordo had run strongly throughout the day and after finishing the morning loop in third, just 6.6 seconds off the lead, he put in a charge on the repeat-runs, eventually ending proceedings 1 second up on Solberg.
“I'm really, really happy,” Sordo told the official WRC site. “We have been working so hard for this and now we're in a good place. There are still two days to go but today has been really good. To be leading Citroen at home is very nice.”
Solberg, who had moved into the lead in SS7, was also delighted with his day and revealed that he has saved some new tyres for days two and three.
“We pushed very hard. The thing is to go flat out, that's the main thing. There's so much gravel,” said the Citroen privateer. “I made one mistake. But I wanted to keep my tyres for the last days so that's why I haven't put new ones on today.”
Sebastien Ogier completes the top-three and having increased his mid-day lead from 5 seconds to 7.7 seconds after SS5, he was disappointed to slip back and only be fourth fastest in SS6 and SS7 and third in SS8. The Frenchman complained of a lack of power, but remains well in the hunt, only 1.8 seconds off P2 and 2.8 seconds off the lead, assuming there is nothing sinister wrong with his DS3.
Kris Meeke is next up and fourth in the second MINI WRT John Cooper Works WRC and despite a spin in SS8, he remains ahead of the Ford Abu Dhabi WRT cars of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen. Both Latvala and Hirvonen lost time this morning in SS3 and Hirvonen had another moment this afternoon in SS7, something that has done little to help his cause.
"There was so much gravel on the road during the long stage this afternoon, it was like sweeping the track on a gravel event," Hirvonen said. "It's a shame about the mistake but tomorrow I need to climb the order and try to take as many points as I can here."