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Three-time winner of Wales Rally GB Sebastien Ogier has once again stormed ahead during the opening stages of the event with a 7.7 second lead over Ott Tanak in a relatively untroubled first morning.
The already-crowned WRC champion Ogier has seen his lead flex over DMACK WRT Ford's Tanak across the Welsh valleys as the Estonian carried over his impressive pace having topped the Shakedown at Wales Rally GB.
Despite unrelenting pressure from Tanak, Ogier's two stage wins from the first four runs has seen the French driver grab the initiative as the two leaders pulled a useful half a minute gap on the chasing pack.
Behind the front two an intense battle for the final rostrum spot has developed with Jari-Matti Latvala nipping ahead of both Kris Meeke and Hayden Paddon as Volkswagen Motorsport move closer to wrapping up the WRC manufacturers' crown with a round to spare.
Latvala heads Meeke in the Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen by just 0.2s after pulling a couple of seconds on the British driver at SS4 Dyfnant 1, with Kiwi Paddon a further 0.2s off Meeke in fifth.
Irish star Craig Breen is just over four seconds off the scrap for third in the second Citroen as he heads factory Hyundai pair Thierry Neuville and Dani Sordo.
M-Sport Ford's Mads Ostberg leapfrogged Andreas Mikkelsen who dropped to tenth with an apparent driveshaft problem which left his Volkswagen down on power.
In the third Abu Dhabi Total WRT Citroen Stephane Lefebrve completed the opening morning of action in 11th ahead of WRC2 leader Esapekka Lappi in the Skoda Fabia R5.