Mikko Hirvonen has ended day one of Rally Poland in a strong position - leading the way and currently on course to overhaul Sebastien Loeb
in the drivers' standings after the Frenchman made another error and crashed out.
Hirvonen grabbed P1 this morning in SS3, after taking his second stage win on the trot. The Finn then saw his advantage go up to 2.4 seconds, when Loeb went off and hit a tree stump early on in Paprotki 1 - the longest test of the event at 33.17 kilometres.
On the repeat loop in the afternoon, Mikko came under a bit of pressure in the first test, when his team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala
topped the times and cut the gap to 1.4 seconds.
However a flier of a time in SS6 allowed Hirvonen to pull out a cushion, and he subsequently finished the day 8.9 seconds in front.
"I want ten points from here and after Loeb's accident I must think about the championship now," said Hirvonen, who lies second in the drivers' standings, seven points behind the Frenchman. "After I saw Loeb's car I eased my pace because I didn't want to make the same mistake. I had marked the tree stump that he hit in my pace notes and actually discussed it with Jari-Matti before we started this morning.
"It's a new rally with new pace notes so that kind of accident can happen to anyone. I can't afford to do anything stupid now. We must take full advantage of this situation over the next two days."
Latvala meanwhile also enjoyed a strong day in the sister BP Ford
Abu Dhabi WRT entry, and like Mikko won three stages to give the 'Blue Oval' a clean sweep of the days tests.
Jari-Matti struggled a bit initially and was 'only' third in the opening two tests, before he got in the groove and was more or less able to match Mikko, except for in the second run through Pianki.
"My feeling with the car improved as the day went on," said Latvala. "I dropped time to Mikko on the penultimate stage [SS6]. I thought I had driven perfectly but he was more than eight seconds faster. It was the most incredible time.