Francois Duval sprung a surprise on day one of the Rallye Deutschland on Friday, the tenth round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, by grabbing the lead in the final test of the day.
Duval has been on the pace from the off and after setting the second best time in the shakedown on Thursday, 'best of the rest' after Sebastien Loeb, the Belgian was again the only one able to challenge the Frenchman on what is virtually Seb's 'home' event.
On the opening loop this morning, Loeb pulled away in his Citroen
C4 WRC, winning two of the three tests to return to the mid-day service in Trier with a 5.8 second lead.
Duval however was fastest in the final test this morning and when Loeb made a mistake with his tyre choice in the afternoon, gambling on it being wet, the Belgian was perfectly placed to capitalise in his OMV Kronos-run Citroen
On the first test after service, which was won by Ford's Mikko Hirvonen, Duval was second quickest cutting Seb's advantage back to 3 seconds. He then sliced it down to 1.7 seconds when he set the pace in SS5, the 23.04 kilometre-run through Grafschaft Veldenz.
Although Chris Atkinson
took the win in SS6, second was enough, combined with the fact Seb was 'only' fifth fastest, to give Duval the lead.
Francois will now take an ever so slight, 1.3 second cushion into day two on Saturday - the longest leg of the event and the OMV Kronos Citroen
man will be keen to maintain his strong run on his first outing with the Belgian-based operation, while also being mindful that if he puts it off the road he will go from 'hero to zero' very quickly.
Seb meanwhile was not too despondent to have lost the lead in SS6 and the fact he and Duval are already quite away in front of the rest of the pack will no doubt please the triple world champion.
His tyre choice in the afternoon though illustrates just how tough this event can be and with conditions likely to remain unsettled throughout the weekend it won't get any easier.