Sebastien Ogier and Robert Kubica have completed Friday's wet opening stage of Tour de Corse – Rallye de France tied for the lead.
Ogier and Kubica both went through the 29.12 km Plage du Liamone-Sarrola test in 19 minutes 44 seconds, with Jari-Matti Latvala next up in third, 5.8s slower.
Despite torrential rain overnight – and concerns there could possibly be a “medicane” today, a rare weather phenomenon, similar to a hurricane, which forms over the Mediterranean – there was no rain in SS1, although flooding has subsequently forced organisers to cancel SS2
“I'm happy with my start,” Ogier told the official WRC site back in service. “The first stage was not as bad as I expected to be honest. My gravel crew had been told to expect more standing and running water. There was still very little grip though, and it was not so easy to find a rhythm.
“Let's see what's coming next.”
Despite his time, Kubica was less pleased, reporting a problem before the test - although he refused go into specifics.
“Before the stage we had a bit of an issue and I was pretty upset. We don't have the right set-up on the car. Not easy. We took it quite steady. This is not driving - so difficult and the car is understeering.” he remarked.
Speaking back in service and quizzed on the issue, he added: “We had the wrong set-up with the car and that's it. You would never run this type of set-up - even on normal roads. The car was not working properly. In service now we will have to make it correct - like it was yesterday.
“I was surprised by how good the time was. There was so much mud on the road except for the final split. It looks like we gained a lot of time there. I'm happy to be here.”
Meanwhile, behind the top-three, Dani Sordo trails Latvala by 6.7s in fourth, while Mads Ostberg holds fifth, 1.8s further back.
“Not so bad,” said Sordo. “The conditions on stage were damp but nothing like the heavy rain here. A lot of the corners were muddy already. Some slippery moments and a lot of understeer. A good start though.”
Elfyn Evans is next up in sixth, ahead of Kevin Abbring, Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen. Stephane Sarrazin then rounds out the top ten, followed by Martin Prokop, Ott Tanak, Stephane Lefebvre, Bryan Bouffier and Hayden Paddon in positions 11 through to 15.
"It was a tricky start," Evans said. "The beginning and the end of the stage was particularly difficult as the grip levels were especially low. There was a twisty section in the middle which was more abrasive and generated a lot more grip. You could carry quite a lot of confidence through there but there were certainly mixed conditions and it was a tricky start for sure.
"We didn't have a perfect rhythm through the wider sections. I wasn't as efficient as I could have been and could have gone faster, but it's not a bad start and we can look to build on that as the weekend goes on."
"It's all about survival in these early stages," Tanak continued. "The conditions weren't quite as bad as I was expecting but we were still properly on the safe side with no moments at all.
“We just don't have the confidence to push in these conditions. When the feeling isn't there, it isn't there, and you have to work for it. That's what we're doing and we'll try to build our confidence as the event goes on.”
Thierry Neuville failed to complete the test after going off early on and hitting a bridge. Neuville damaged the right rear suspension in that incident and was forced to retire from the leg.
In WRC2, Pontus Tidemand leads the principal support category for Skoda, 2.6s up on Craig Breen with Julien Maurin third.
Tour de Corse – Rallye de France now continues this afternoon, although with SS2 cancelled, that leaves only SS3, the 36.43km Francardo-Sermano 1 test, to run. It is meant to start at 14.47 hours local time [13.47 hours UK time]. Full itinerary for round eleven in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Tour de Corse - Rallye de France: Overall standings after Stage 1 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 19m 44.0s
= Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 00.0s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 05.8s
4. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 12.5s
5. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 14.3s
6. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 16.0s
7. Kevin Abbring
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 24.4s
8. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 27.8s
9. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 31.4s
10. Stephane Sarrazin
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 35.0s
11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 38.4s
12. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 39.7s
13. Stephane Lefebvre
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 49.0s
14. Bryan Bouffier
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 53.7s
15. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +0m 54.3s
16. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 +0m 57.6s
17. Craig Breen
Peugeot 208 T16 +1m 00.2s
18. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta RRC +1m 02.0s
19. Esapekka Lappi
Skoda Fabia R5 +1m 05.4s
WRC2 standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):
1. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 20m 41.6s
2. Craig Breen
Peugeot 208 T16 +0m 02.6s
3. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 04.4s
SS1. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Hit a bridge
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial