1 January 1901
Loeb moves up into P1 in final test
Hirvonen's team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala is next up and third in the sister BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT entry. Latvala held P3 right from the off this morning and while he was unable to keep up with the two in front, he has eased away from the rest of the pack and now lies 23.6 seconds off second and 42.4 seconds up on Dani Sordo in fourth.
He was not however, completely happy with his Focus this morning, but felt more comfortable this afternoon on the repeat loop and is confident he can now strike back on day two.
"I'm a little disappointed to have dropped time this morning but I'm back in the game tonight," Jari-Matti confirmed. "Tomorrow's stages are much faster and I'm third in the start order, which I think is the best position."
Sordo also had a solid run and moved up into fourth in SS3. The Spaniard then consolidated his position and currently has a 20-odd second advantage over Petter Solberg in fifth.
Petter, who won the short SSS in Oslo last night, has enjoyed a good start on his first event in his privately-entered Citroen Xsara WRC. The Norwegian set top-ten times in every single test - including a fourth best marker and two fifths.
"I'm happy. My position to the leaders is actually better than I had thought it might be," stated Petter. "Okay, we don't have the big speed, but we knew that was going to be the case. I've come here for fun, we've got to remember that. At the moment, I haven't made the big push yet."
Despite his pace though, 'Hollywood' is only fractionally in front of ex-Suzuki World Rally Team-man and two-time Junior World Rally champion, Per-Gunnar Andersson.
Like Petter, P-G is competing in his first event of the season this weekend and the Swede sprung a surprise by setting the pace in both SS6 and SS7. P-G eventually finished day 1 just 0.1 seconds off fifth, a brilliant effort, especially as he is in a privateer Skoda Fabia WRC.
Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson round out the top eight, the former still in contention and very much in the battle for P5, but someway off challenging for a podium.
"The set up was not exactly right in the morning so I couldn't go as fast as I wanted," said Henning. "We changed a few things in service and that made it better to turn in and get some good times in the afternoon, but then we had a bit of a problem with the gear selector towards the end of SS6 and had to use the manual shift. The team will get it sorted tonight, though, and we will push again tomorrow for some more places. I still think top three is possible."
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