Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier has taken the early lead on Rally de Espana, winning all three of the night stages to build an early 8.8 second advantage.

Ogier, who secured the 2013 WRC Drivers' title last time out on Rallye de France, completed the first stage, the 21.26 kilometre Querol test, in 11 minutes 23.6 seconds, 3 seconds up on Dani Sordo.

The Frenchman was then quickest again in SS2, 3.6 seconds up on Sordo, who was again 'best of the rest'. Ogier then made it a hat-trick of stage wins in SS3, albeit only 0.1 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala.

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"The rally got off to a good start for us. I took a somewhat restrained approach to the first stage this evening, but after that we did a perfect job," Ogier said.

"I just want to enjoy the rally here in Spain and have some fun - and the best way to do that is to go flat out. My aim tomorrow is to extend our lead as much as possible to give us a good chance of winning when we switch to gravel on Sunday."

Behind, Latvala inherited second overall in Riudecanyes 1, after Sordo elected to play it tactically, easing off so as to drop behind the Finn on the road for Saturday's second leg.

Tactics are likely to play a big part in this event, as the start order for the final day, when the surface changes from asphalt to gravel, will be set at the end of SS8 tomorrow, and whoever is leading will end up running first on the road on the Sunday and will thus have to sweep the line.

"Everything went well this evening. It was great to drive on these roads at night. I felt it was preferable to lose a little bit of time on SS3 so that Latvala moved ahead of me. That will make it easier for me to choose my starting position for the third leg, which will be on gravel. I'm not a big fan of these kinds of tactics, but we've been forced into proceeding like this by the regulations," Sordo explained.

"We can be very pleased with our first evening because it's not easy starting a rally in the dark and driving fast straight away," added Latvala. "But we managed without any problems and got into a good rhythm. I enjoyed the last stage in particular and upped my speed. You need to be consistently fast to succeed in this rally.

"That's still our goal for Saturday, which will all be on asphalt, before we switch to gravel tracks on Sunday. This changeover is one of the special challenges we face here in Spain, just like the darkness this evening."

Thierry Neuville meanwhile holds fourth, 6.5 seconds off third and 19.1 seconds off the leader. The Belgian struggled to find the right rhythm in his Qatar WRT Fiesta RS WRC car and admitted he wasn't happy.

"It was quite a difficult evening for us as I wasn't 100 per cent comfortable with either the set-up of the car or the pacenotes. We were definitely losing too much time, but I think that that was the best we could have done and we'll work hard with the team to change the settings for tomorrow and hopefully do better," Neuville remarked.

Mikko Hirvonen rounds out the top five in his Citroen DS3 WRC with Andreas Mikkelsen in the third works Polo R WRC only 0.5 seconds adrift.

"There were highs and lows," Hirvonen stated. "I started well on SS1, but then I struggled to find the rhythm on the next stage. I was quicker on the last test and that meant I finished the leg among the leaders. I like consistent road conditions like these and I'm really looking forward to tomorrow's stages."

"I might have been a bit too cautious in the first two Special Stages, especially on the fast stretches. But I still enjoyed them," Mikkelsen continued. "The Polo's set-up is perfect - it's definitely the best asphalt car I've ever driven. I've always liked the third stage and it went really well again today. Third place on that stage is a great result. I'm very pleased with the time I put in. We got our rhythm right and now I hope that we'll have another good day tomorrow."

Further back, Qatar M-Sport trio Evgeny Novikov, Mads Ostberg and Hayden Paddon hold positions seven through to nine, with Martin Prokop tenth.

"This evening has been OK for us," said Novikov, who is right up with Mikkelsen and Hirvonen. "Of course it was interesting to drive in darkness because it has been a long time since we have driven any night stages. From the second stage onwards we were following Thierry's split times and so far everything is going OK and we are looking forward to tomorrow."

"It has been a challenging first day, but we are here which is the main thing," said Ostberg, who disappointingly is 39.2 seconds off P7. "We have been struggling with the gear-changes, and I don't think the gearbox option we came up with in testing worked so well for us this evening, but I hope it will be better on tomorrow's stages."

In WRC2, Robert Kubica heads the class, 51.7 seconds up on Elfyn Evans - and eleventh overall. Kubica had a scare in the final test when his handbrake failed, but he still managed to post the quickest time in his class - as he also did in SS1 and SS2.

The event now continues on Saturday, with six stages on the bill. SS4, the repeat-run through the 16.35 km Riudecanyes test, is due to start at 09.05 hours local time [08.05 hours UK time].

Rally de Espana: Overall standings after Stage 3 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 34m 39.9s M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 08.8s M
3. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 12.6s M
4. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 19.1s M
5. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 27.3s M
6. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 27.8s M
7. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 28.5s M
8. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 07.7s M
9. Hayden Paddon Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 09.0s
10. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 13.0s M

Others

11. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +01m 25.3s WRC2
12. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 02.5s M
13. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +02m 17.0s WRC2
14. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Seashore Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 25.0s
15. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +02m 42.7s WRC2
16. Khalid Al Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +02m 45.2s M
17. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +03m 07.4s WRC2
18. Robert Barrable Ford Fiesta R5 +03m 59.7s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC 36m 05.2s WRC2
2. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 51.7s WRC2
3. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +01m 17.4s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Enrique Garcia Ojeda Citroen DS3 R3T 38m 34.2s WRC3
2. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa Citroen DS3 R3T +2m 12.8s WRC3
3. Mohamed Al-Sahlawi Citroen DS3 R3T +4m 48.9s WRC3

JWRC standings after Stage 3 (Top 3)

1. Jose Antonio Suarez Ford Fiesta R2 40m 00.5s JWRC
2. Yeray Lemes Ford Fiesta R2 +00m 00.2s JWRC
3. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 +00m 20.9s JWRC

Notable retirements:

None

*denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations;
M denotes Manufacturer entry;

all times unofficial