Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb has stamped his authority on the opening day of the Rallye Deutschland Friday, as he looks to win the event for the fourth year in succession.
Loeb was quickest through all of the day's six tests, bar one, when Francois Duval went fastest in SS3 to steal the lead off his team-mate, heading into the mid-day service. Loeb though soon went back in front once proceedings resumed in the afternoon, with a re-run through each of the mornings tests, and he now overnights 11.7 seconds up on Duval.
During a day in which conditions were dry and sunny, Duval though for once was more than a match for Loeb, and while he ended the day second, he was right up their with the Frenchman throughout the leg putting in easily his best performance of the year. Indeed Duval helped ensure Citroen were 1-2 in every test.
Rally Finland winner, Marcus Gronholm heads the chasing pack, but the Finn is 1 minute behind Duval and seemingly already in a pretty lonely battle for the final place on the podium.
Petter Solberg is next up in his Subaru Impreza, but he is a further minute adrift of Gronholm's Peugeot. 'Hollywood' had a minor spin in SS1, losing him around 5-7 seconds, but other than that, it was a pretty uneventful day for the Norwegian.
Toni Gardemeister meanwhile is fifth for Ford, just 6 seconds or so up on Roman Kresta, the Finn getting ahead of his team-mate on SS5, when he went off the road. Kresta also lost time earlier on in the day in SS3 with a puncture otherwise he would have been in front.
Markko Martin and Gigi Galli round out the provisional points' scorers, in seventh and eighth respectively, the former was running fourth prior to a mistake in Schones Moselland 1, when he hit a wall, dropping him down the order. That incident took the wheel off the rim and Martin lost 30 seconds while limping to the end of the stage.
Skoda team leader, Armin Schwarz is just one place out of the points on his home event, with Daniel Sola tenth, the best of the non-works drivers, in his semi-privateer Ford Focus.
Of the remaining works drivers, Harri Rovanpera is eleventh, followed by Jan Kopecky in 13th, in the third works Skoda Fabia WRC, one place behind Xavier Pons. Subaru's Stephane Sarrazin and Chris Atkinson are 14th and 15th respectively, both having had a miserable day - the former lost time when his handbrake lever broke in SS3, while an off track excursion in SS5, lost him even more time - around 2 minutes. Atkinson had turbo problems from the off this morning and as such, he has been handicapped from the word go.