M-Sport's Mikko Hirvonen heads the leaderboard on Rally Italia Sardegna following the 1.3 kilometre Citta Di Cagliari super special stage tonight.

Hirvonen was paired with Jari-Matti Latvala and in the end he swept through and was 1.7 seconds up in his Fiesta RS WRC.

"It was a really good show and I think that we did a good job of entertaining the thousands of spectators who came out to see us," said Hirvonen. "We only have a 0.2 second lead going into tomorrow, but it is still a stage win and to take it in front of such a fantastic crowd was a really nice way to start the rally. The real work starts tomorrow, but this evening, we can go to bed happy."

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Behind, Thierry Neuville and defending WRC Champion Sebastien Ogier were joint second, just 0.2 seconds off Hirvonen, while Juho Hanninen took fourth.

Further back, Latvala wound up fifth overall, tied with Kris Meeke, who completed the test with steam pouring out of the front of his Citroen DS3 WRC after taking the jump rather too enthusiastically. His car is expected to be repaired overnight ready for the off tomorrow.

Elfyn Evans, Andreas Mikkelsen, Henning Solberg and Mads Ostberg completed the top ten, with WRC2 class leader Yuriy Protasov eleventh and former F1 ace, Robert Kubica, who was quickest this morning in the shakedown, twelfth.

The event now starts proper on Friday, with two loops of four stages on the bill, totalling around 160 competitive kilometres. SS2, the 20 km Terranova Nord 1 test, is scheduled to start at 11.35 hours local time [10.35 hours UK time].

Rally Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 1 (Top 10):

1. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC 1m 19.1s M
2. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +00m 00.2s M
= Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 00.2s M
4. Juho Hanninen Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +00m 01.2s M
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 01.7s M
= Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 01.7s M
7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 01.8s M
= Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 01.8s M
9. Henning Solberg Adapta Motorsport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 02.1s
10. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 02.6s M

Others

11. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta RRC +00m 03.5s WRC2
12. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 03.6s M
13. Hayden Paddon Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +00m 04.5s M
= Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar Rally Team Ford Fiesta RRC +00m 04.5s WRC2
15. Quentin Gilbert Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 04.7s WRC2
= Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 04.7s M
17. Ott Tanak Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 05.1s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):

1. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta RRC 1m 22.6s WRC2
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC +00m 01.0s WRC2
3. Quentin Gilbert Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 01.2s WRC2

Notable retirements:

None.

M denotes Manufacturer entry

all times unofficial