Sebastien Loeb will get to choose his road position for Friday's opening stages on Wales Rally GB before his rivals after setting the pace during qualifying on Wednesday.
The World Rally Championship points leader set a time of 2m 22.260s on his run through the stage at the Walters Arena complex, with the Citroen
ace able to complete his run through the stage before rain that was in the air started to fall.
“It was a good run,” he said. “I made one or two small mistakes but I am happy, it was not raining for me."
The drivers behind weren't so lucky however, with Petter Solberg
the first man to head into the stage after the rain had started to come down. The Ford driver pushed hard to beat Loeb but ended up just 0.051s slower than the Frenchman.
“It's unbelievable,” he reflected. “The rain tap is turned on again at the start line. I didn't know what the grip would be like and I was braking too early for some of the corners. It's frustrating but I still have one aim and that is to win.”
Mikko Hirvonen was third quickest ahead of Thierry Neuville, who was an encouraging fourth ahead of his first attempt at the Welsh event. Defending champion Jari-Matti Latvala
was fifth with the top six completed by Mads Ostberg.
Fresh from a medal-winning performance in the London Olympics, Nasser Al-Attiyah was seventh with Ott Tanak, Matthew Wilson
and Evgeny Novikov
rounding out the top ten.
Chris Atkinson was eleventh in the first of the MINI Coopers having run wide during the stage.
Drivers will choose their starting position on Thursday during the starting ceremony in Llandudno.Wales Rally GB: Qualifying stage:
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2m 22.260s
2. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +0.051s
3. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +0.872s
4. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +0.878s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +1.133s
6. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +1.271s
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen
DS3 WRC +1.589s
8. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +1.818s
9. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +2.217s
10. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +2.828s
11. Chris Atkinson
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +3.617s
12. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4.222s
13. Jannie Habig
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +10.474s
14. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +11.558s