Ford's second driver, Francois Duval shone today [Friday] on the Rallye de France-Tour de Corse, the Belgian ending the opening leg 15.1 seconds up on team-mate, Markko Martin.
Duval was quickest through the opening test, and second fastest through SS2, before repeating the feat, when both tests were repeated to conclude the legs 121 competitive kilometres.
"I've made no serious mistakes and my tyre choice has been good," said Duval.
"I really enjoy asphalt rallies and it's good for me when conditions are damp and slippery like this. Some corners this afternoon were tricky because mud had been dragged onto the road during the first pass this morning. My car has been perfect all day and I just hope I can stay in this position until Sunday afternoon."
Martin meanwhile, who won SS2, completed a fine day for Ford, by securing second, and both he, and Duval look good heading into leg 2 tomorrow.
Championship leader, Sebastien Loeb
is third, 35.1 seconds off the lead, the Frenchman the 'best of the rest' and currently on course to secure the drivers' title. Loeb admitted to being a tad nervous.
"I had to pick up the pace a bit [in SS4]. Carlos had got ahead me and Marcus Gronholm was not far behind," he stated. "The special stage was dry, my Xsara was perfect again - everything is going well on our side. Petter Solberg
appears to be struggling to get on the pace. Things are going in the way we wanted, and I feel slightly less tense now that the match is underway. But nothing is over yet..."
Carlos Sainz also went well in the sister Citroen
Xsara WRC, and the Spaniard ended the day fourth, after being demoted by Loeb in the final test of the day.
Continuing the two-by-two formation on leaderboard, Peugeot's Marcus Gronholm was fifth, with Cedric Robert next up in the other 307. Both Peugeot drivers complained that they had selected the wrong tyres this morning.
"It's been a slightly strange day," revealed Gronholm. "I had a very bad feeling in the morning but it seemed to get better in the afternoon.