Citroen's Sebastien Loeb
has taken the lead on the Rallye Monte Carlo, following the opening two stages on Thursday night that kicked off the first round in the 2008 FIA World Rally Championship.
Loeb had to settle for the second best time in SS1 - the 28.12 kilometre-run through St Jean en Royans, 3.8 seconds behind his team-mate, Daniel Sordo, who was fastest in the sister C4 WRC. The Frenchman moved into P1 in the next test though and was 16.5 seconds up on the Spaniard who lost time after having damaged his spotlights. Loeb consequently finished the opening day with a 12.7 second cushion.
Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile is 'best of the rest' for the BP Ford
Abu Dhabi World Rally Team, although he has already conceded over 40 seconds and was nearly 30 seconds off Sordo in SS1.
Mikko later admitted that he eased off too much, but is convinced he still has time to mount a challenge and stop Loeb from winning the event for a record fifth time.
Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matt Latvala had a bad start in the other BP Ford-backed Focus RS WRC car and he lost around 3-4 minutes in the opening stage when he hit a rock and suffered a puncture.
The Finn had trouble getting the wheel nuts off when he went to change the damaged tyre and lost even more time. He was back on it in SS2 however and set the eighth best time. He finished the leg just inside the top 20, in 17th place overall.
Chris Atkinson ended up fourth post-SS4 after a solid start in his Impreza. The Aussie lies 14 seconds or so off Hirvonen and a similar amount up on Francois Duval, who is fifth on his 'guest' outing with the Stobart
Duval lost time with a small off in SS1 when he slid on a big patch of ice and into a small wall. Luckily though his Focus suffered no damage and he still managed to post the fifth best time.
Further down the order, Petter Solberg
completes the top six, although the Norwegian also had a moment in SS1 and lost out with a spin.
Gigi Galli conceded he made a few mistakes but was content to get his Focus back to service and on course for points in P7.