Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"Today was soft, narrow and twisty but everything felt good so I pushed hard all day. It was cold and muddy in the opening stage this morning, so cold that I never really got any heat into the tyres, although the grip was still consistently good. I didn't expect so much snow there and in some places when I cut a corner, it came over the car. This afternoon the roads were really rutted but I expected them to be worse. It was difficult to drive because the ruts were so deep. But I had a clear run and everything went smoothly. Tomorrow's stages are wider and faster. There was a lot of loose gravel on the surface during the recce so I hope it continues to rain tonight to dampen everything down because first in the start order won't be the best place to be otherwise. The stages will require a different rhythm from today and I hope I can find that immediately."

"It was a very strange day with many things happening. We had some fears in the end because of a puncture in the super special stage - we had to change the wheel in less than two minutes in order to start the second run without a penalty, but we made it. Today I did my job and Jari Matti is still very close so tomorrow we will have to stay awake."

Jari-Matti Latvala [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"My position is good but it was an up and down day. I made no big mistakes but I wasn't totally satisfied with my driving. I couldn't find a rhythm in the first two stages this morning. I pushed too hard and the car was going too wide into corners. I changed the differential programme for the final stage and that really helped. The conditions were challenging, both inside and outside. There was so much rain outside tonight that when we entered the stage inside the Dome, the concrete was soaked. It was like driving on ice and I had to be so careful."

Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

"Not an easy day ending with some misunderstandings with the marshals in the last two stages. They stopped us between the two passages in the Dome and we could not complete two laps in a row. Let's be positive we are third tonight and it's going according to the plan. Of course I'm so sad that Patrick Pivato [Duval's co-driver] was injured. It's never funny to have these kinds of experiences. I would have preferred to fight for this provisional podium place. Tomorrow we will have to stay committed and concentrated."

"I tried to stay focused but I also kept a close eye on the gaps in order to keep the pressure on our rivals. The first day is already over and that's a good thing. I hate driving defensively. I am happy with third place this evening and I am aware what that could bring us, although I'm trying not to think about the title. We've got a big day to come tomorrow and I expect the second leg stages to be very selective."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "I took the first stage really cautiously; too cautiously perhaps. There was snow by the side of the road and I was worried we might come across ice, too. It was quite complicated to find the best compromise between outright speed and caution. It was easier to find a good rhythm for the following tests which were less treacherous."

Chris Atkinson [Subaru WRT]:

"The car was not right this morning so we lost a lot, but it was much better this afternoon and we were able to make up time. I had a lot of understeer this morning and after service it was less. It was enjoyable to drive. Okay the times are still not where we want them, but we didn't lose a lot of time to Sebastien this afternoon. Ford seem to have a very good engineering package for these conditions though and they're very fast. I was making up time this afternoon so it would have been nice to keep going without the cancellations."

Petter Solberg [Subaru WRT]:

"The stages this afternoon were very rutted and slippery, but we had no major problems today other than a small off in the first stage, but no damage. Today's stages were very narrow and slippery and we knew that it would be difficult. The stages tomorrow will be much faster though and I think they will suit us much better so hopefully tomorrow we can increase our speed. I want to fight for a podium. The approach doesn't change. It's always the same focus on fighting for a win coming into every rally."

Matthew Wilson [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"Well it has been quite an eventful day and I hope Patrick is doing OK in hospital tonight as he undergoes surgery. It is good to finish the day sixth and in a position to fight for a top-four spot but OK we have seen what has happened today and there is a long way to go in this event. The first two stages went really well this morning and it's great to have found the speed right from the word go. The stages were getting quite rutted even running just ninth on the road and the one proper stage we did this afternoon was quite tricky. On stage two we struggled a little bit with the small Tarmac sections on the stage because it was difficult to judge the braking points entering these sections. The pacenotes also didn't quite gel this morning but we made quite a few changes during the stages and this seemed to help on stage 5 this afternoon."

Per-Gunnar Andersson [Suzuki WRT]:

"I'm very pleased to be back on gravel, which is my favourite surface, and I think we've got off to a good start. Today's stages were very technical and tricky: I think we will enjoy the stages tomorrow and on Sunday more. For the time being we are in a good position and the car has been very reliable; now we have to capitalise upon this and avoid making any mistakes."

Toni Gardemeister [Suzuki WRT]:

"The stages this morning were very slippery, with some snow by the side of the road as well, so it was a struggle to find traction. We plan to make a few changes to the set-up tonight, so hopefully the car should be well-suited to the stages tomorrow. But we're already very pleased to be in the points and the plan is definitely to continue this way, without taking any risks. The superspecial stage was a lot of fun and I think it was a great show for everyone!"

Henning Solberg [Munchi's Ford WRT]:

"The afternoon was a bit better than the morning. I will try to do something to improve the car for tomorrow. We changed the diff at midday service and I guess it is okay now. Today was not very busy but I felt a lot of stress."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "The car is really not easy to drive. It may be something to do with the central differential because the car is sliding a lot."

Federico Villagra [Munchi's Ford WRT]:

"It's been a day to forget for us. After the driveshaft in the morning we had a problem with a suspension arm in the afternoon. I had to fix it up before coming back to Sapporo. I hope tomorrow will be a more interesting story."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "Not a good start. The front left driveshaft broke down in the very first stage and the hydraulic gearbox system also seems to be damaged. I lost something like three minutes."

Notable retirements:

Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]: [retired from day 1 in SS6 - turbo]

"Everything was going perfectly. We had settled into a good pace which was quick without us taking any risks. I was pleased with our position, but then our engine dropped power on SS6 and we were forced to stop. It's hugely disappointing but we will see with the team whether we will be able to profit from the SupeRally ruling to restart on Saturday morning."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "The stages were narrow and very slippery. It could have been easy to make a mistake and there was more to lose than we had to gain. That said, the short run gave us a chance to familiarise ourselves with the new terrain which is no easier than that found in the Obihiro region."

Francois Duval [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]: [retired from event in SS6 - crashed out]

Francois Duval's co-driver Patrick Pivato suffered a fractured pelvis and fractured tibia in the accident.

Team principals:

Malcolm Wilson [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT - team director]:

"We had no issues with the cars on what was one of the most challenging days' driving of the season. The drivers had wet, dry and snow to contend with and both dealt with the conditions in a highly mature fashion."

Olivier Quesnel [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"I've obviously got mixed feelings this evening. Everything has gone to plan so far for S?bastien and Daniel. They set themselves a good objective and succeeded in ending the day in third place which suits us very well. I am really disappointed for Dani and Marc, though. Up until SS6, they were having the same sort of good day as their team-mates and running in fourth place, which was what we had asked of them. We will look at the car when it gets back to service to see whether they can rejoin the rally tomorrow. As we saw today, we mustn't put the cart before the horse. We've got a long day ahead of us on Saturday, with 156.78km of stages. The entire Citro?n team is extremely fired up, but also very concentrated."

David Richards [Subaru WRT - managing director]:

"Rally Japan has traditionally been a rally of attrition, and we've seen today that this remains true despite the change of location. We've also seen some very tricky conditions today, despite which Petter and Chris have kept their heads to finish in solid positions from which we are well placed to make the most of the remaining two days."

Malcolm Wilson [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT - team boss]:

"Tonight Patrick will be operated on to fix a fractured pelvis and tibia he sustained in a high speed accident with Fran?ois today. The accident happened about five kilometres into stage 6 when Fran?ois got slightly caught out on a slippery, high-speed section and the car slid wide into the Armco. There was a large steel post holding some wire which the car had a heavy impact with on Patrick's side. The event safety crews did a fantastic job in getting to the scene quickly and safely extracting Patrick from the car before airlifting him to hospital. Matthew has done a superb job of driving today and is now in a strong position to battle for a top-four spot tomorrow. Both he and Scott also need to be commended on their handling of the situation with Fran?ois' accident; arriving first on the scene they accessed the situation and took the right actions to help their team-mates safely out of the stage."

Shusuke Inagaki [Suzuki WRT - team director]:

"We are pleased with the way that Rally Japan has started for us, with both our cars in the driver points, but there is still a very long way to go over 19 stages, so we cannot draw any firm conclusions. The conditions have not been easy, but our drivers have so far found exactly the right balance between speed and safety, so I would urge them to continue at this pace. We've been delighted by all the support we have received from our local fans, which has been much appreciated."



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