Citroen's Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead on Rallye de France this morning, winning all three stages, and showing no signs at all of being 'rusty'.
Loeb said prior to the event that it might take him some time to adapt again
, and while he was only seventh in the short Stasbourg Power Stage on Thursday, he soon re-asserted his authority when the event started 'proper' and in SS2, the 10.66km Klevener test, he edged out Dani Sordo by 0.9 seconds to move up to third overall.
The nine-time WRC champion was then quickest again in SS3, 1.4 seconds up on Thierry Neuville, before making it three from three in SS4, 0.9 seconds up on Neuville, who was again second.
Loeb now heads into the mid-day service with a 3.7 second advantage over Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala and the signs are already pretty ominous for his rivals.
"It was tricky between the damp and the dry sections. The settings of the car were great though, and I managed to keep a constant temperature with the tyres in order to be efficient on the damp portions. The road is not too dirty after the first competitors but I feel anxious about the [forecast] rain this afternoon," Loeb stated.
Neuville is next up and third, just 1 second behind Latvala, in his Qatar WRT M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
“We've had an OK morning with a clean run and a good tyre strategy. For sure it was the safer option going for a mixed tyre configuration, but then you also have the disadvantage of two spares and I could feel the extra weight under braking at times," Neuville noted.
“I tried to push on the first two stages [SS2 and SS3], but I was a bit steadier on the last one [SS4]. I could have gone quicker there, especially towards the end. Honestly, we were hoping for a bit more rain, but at the end of the day I was competitive over all three stages so – even though it is difficult to say – I think we made the right choice.”
Then comes overnight leader Dani Sordo, who slipped from first to fourth in SS4 and who complained it was 'difficult to keep his Citroen DS3 WRC car on the road'.
"The conditions are not easy; I didn't feel confident. I believe we should have taken some soft compounds as the road was very slippery," stated the Spaniard.