Dani Sordo showed that Citroen
have two drivers capable of fighting for victory in the World Rally Championship after coming out on top of a day long battle with Mikko Hirvonen
and Sebastien Loeb
The Spaniard took two stage wins during the first day proper of the event to return to service with a slender lead of just over five seconds over Ford team leader Hirvonen, while defending champion Loeb lies third – little more than 16 seconds off the pace after the top three finally became somewhat spread out on the final stage of day one.
The day had started with Jari-Matti Latvala
taking the lead with the quickest time on SS2, but a tightly fought day saw no driver able to exert their authority on the event as top spot changed regularly throughout the day.
Such was the close nature of the times that less than ten seconds had split the top five drivers at the mid-day service, but Sordo came out fighting when the afternoon loop began and moved into the lead with the quickest time on SS6. Hirvonen then battled back ahead on SS7 with the pair level pegging at the top after SS8.
However, Sordo was then able to outpace Hirvonen on the final test of the day to return to service 5.1secs up on the Finn – although he will now face the prospect of sweeping the road on day two.
Hirvonen enjoyed a solid day to end the opening leg of the event 11.2secs clear of third placed Loeb, who backed off on the final stage of the day, while one of the undoubted stars of the day was Petter Solberg, who continued to show impressive speed with his older Citroen
'Hollywood' set the quickest time on SS4 and ends the first day of the event just 2.6secs adrift of Loeb in fourth place.
Henning Solberg had appeared set for a somewhat lonely run at the mid-way point of the day, but the Stobart
VK M-Sport driver will now head into the second looking to try and defend fifth place from Latvala, who lost time and slipped away from the battle for the lead when he picked up a puncture on SS6. Until that point, the young Finn had been running well as he looks to rebound from his dramatic retirement from the lead last time out in Portugal.
Behind Latvala, Matthew Wilson
lies seventh, while home hero Federico Villagra
holds the final points scoring position for the Munchi's Ford
Junior Team pairing Sebastien Ogier
and Conrad Rautenbach
complete the top ten.
In the Production World Rally Championship, Gabriel Pozzo leads the way but won't be able to relax heading into day two after early leader Nasser Al-Attiyah battled back from problems earlier in the morning to end the first day just 7.4secs behind while Marcos Ligato is also in contention after the first nine stages.
Day one of the event proved to be a challenging one for the Junior runners, with all three drivers running into serious problems.
Broken rear suspension appeared to have put Alessandro Bettega out of contention during the morning, with Aaron Burkart then breaking his steering on SS8. That looked like handing Michal Kosciuszko a healthy lead before he too broke his steering on the final stage of the day which means Bettega will take a somewhat surprising lead into the second day.