Volkswagen driver Sebastien Ogier heads the pack on Wales Rally GB following the first three night stages this evening.

Ogier, who was quickest in qualifying this morning and who opted to run second in the order, completed the opening test, the 6.95 kilometre Gwydyr stage, in 4 minutes 43.1 seconds, 1.3 seconds up on team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. The Frenchman was then quickest again in SS2, 0.9 seconds up Latvala, who was again 'best of the rest'. Ogier then had to settle for second in SS3, 0.4 seconds off Thierry Neuville, and he now heads back to service with a 3.2 second lead.

"A great start to the Wales Rally GB for us," said Ogier. "It didn't take me long to find my rhythm after qualifying. Whatever happens here, I can take a very relaxed approach. Wales Rally GB is not normally one of my favourites. It is very easy to make a mistake and crash out. For this reason, it is particularly important to adopt the mindset that the rally is not over until the very last stage. It was not easy in the dark today, and it is extremely slippery on the muddy gravel roads.

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"The coming days will definitely be a real challenge - particularly on Saturday and Sunday, when we are on the road all day without a midday service. This puts a lot of strain on the car and tyres."

Behind, Neuville moved ahead of Latvala and up into P2 overall in the final test of the loop and now lies 2 seconds ahead, despite a brief excursion into a ditch in SS1 and despite hitting a huge rock in SS2.

"It has been a difficult evening but we are quite happy with our pace," Neuville noted. "Of course it is slippery and you need to be careful in every corner, but so far so good. We had a bit of a moment on the second stage when we cut a corner and hit the underneath of the car. We had a small issue with the gearlever after that, but the car seems to be very strong! I thought that it was over for us, but the car was still going and we went on to set the quickest time in the next stage [SS3].

"Tomorrow is another day and its stages are well known to the other drivers so I hope it is not a disadvantage to us. We've only rallied them once but we are well prepared and we will try and stay in the fight."

"After qualifying, I opted to start first - and this decision appears to have been the right one," Latvala added. "I was able to match the pace of Sebastien and Thierry, who had decided to start later. The three of us at the front of the field have been involved in a really close tussle so far. The night stages were quite tricky: sections with good grip alternated with some very slippery spots. Finding the right rhythm for these conditions and pacing yourself intelligently is the key to being successful here in Great Britain. The first two stages went really well for us, but it was a bit more slippery on the third. Despite this, I think starting first will still be a good decision come tomorrow."

Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is fourth, already 11 seconds off P3 and 16.2 seconds off Ogier: "I wanted to be further up with my road position, it is really not easy and this test [SS3] has to be the slippiest of the three stages," Mikko noted. "I must admit I found it very difficult. We were trying things with the car and trying to find a good rhythm. We'll see how it goes tomorrow."

Mads Ostberg rounds out the top five in his Qatar M-Sport WRT Fiesta RS WRC, despite gearshift issues, with VW junior driver, Andreas Mikkelsen sixth and former F1 ace, Robert Kubica seventh on his first outing in a current generation WRC car.

"That was incredibly hard to judge," Kubica conceded. "I don't have too much experience and I'm trying to get to grips with braking at the right [time]. But hey, I'm smiling and I'm very happy to be here."

Further back, Evgeny Novikov and Elfyn Evans lie eighth and ninth, the latter also in the lead in the WRC2 class. Martin Prokop completes the top ten, with WRC2 runners Jari Ketomaa and Mark Higgins eleventh and twelfth.

The event now continues on Friday, with two loops of three stages on the bill. SS4, the 32.14 km Hafren 1 test, is due to start at 09.37 hours local time.

Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 3 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 14m 28.3s M
2. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 03.2s M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 05.2s M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 16.2s M
5. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 24.7s M
6. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 27.8s M
7. Robert Kubica Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00m 35.4s M
8. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 37.5s M
9. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 06.9s WRC2
10. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 07.6s M


11. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 20.1s WRC2
12. Mark Higgins Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 23.5s WRC2
13. Eyvind Brynildsen Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 25.6s WRC2
14. Robert Barrable Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 48.3s WRC2
15. Edoardo Bresolin Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 53.0s WRC2
46. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +05m 40.8s M##

WRC2 standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 15m 35.2s WRC2
2. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 13.2s WRC2
3. Mark Higgins Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 16.6s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 3 (Top 3):

1. Bryan Bouffier Citroen DS3 R3T 16m 49.8s WRC3
2. Jukka Korhonen Citroen DS3 R3T +00m 16.1s WRC3
3. Keith Cronin Citroen DS3 R3T +01m 03.0s WRC3

Notable retirements:

DNS. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Did not start - hand injury M

*denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations;
##Started with a 5 minute penalty;
M denotes Manufacturer entry;

all times unofficial