CLICK HERE for Monte Carlo Rally shakedown results
Abu Dhabi Racing's Kris Meeke has topped shakedown for the Monte Carlo Rally ahead of the 2016 World Rally Championship opener, as three manufacturers filled the top three positions.
Though Citroen has withdrawn from the WRC as an official manufacturer entry this year ahead of a planned full-scale return in 2017, Meeke will get several outings in the Citroen DS3 over the course of the season, beginning with the Monte Carlo curtain raiser.
Beginning his campaign in fine fettle by topping shakedown around the 3.35km route, Meeke stopped the clock at 2m 07.2secs, placing him just ahead of defending champion Sebastien Ogier, who comes into the weekend seeking a third consecutive win with VW on the Monte.
With conditions proving more favourable at the start of shakedown, most fast times came on the first run, with Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville giving Hyundai reason to be encouraged by posting the third and fourth best times in the new i20 WRC, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala in the remaining VWs.
Ex-F1 driver Robert Kubica emerged as the best of the Ford contingent in seventh place, ahead of Meeke's upcoming team-mate Stefan Lefebvre, who was just under seven seconds slower than his pace setting Citroen counterpart.
One of the few drivers to improve their time on the latter runs as conditions became more slippery, Mads Ostberg lifted himself to ninth on the timesheets, ahead of Monte debutant Hayden Paddon in the remaining Hyundai.
Outside the top ten, DMACK Ford's Ott Tanak was 11th fastest, while Elfyn Evans – who was dropped from the M-Sport Ford team in favour of Eric Camilli – had the satisfaction of being quicker than the Frenchman as the best of the WRC2 drivers in 12th overall. Bryan Bouffier in the third M-Sport Fiesta RS entry and Skoda WRC2 driver Julien Maurin completed the top 15.