Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

"I felt a lot more confident with Sottozero tyres on my C4 WRC. Its handling was much more progressive and I was able to run at the pace I wanted to. But even though I'm leading this evening, and despite the cushion we have over the car in third place, I prefer to continue to drive cautiously because I can't afford to make any mistakes. Cancelling the last two stages was probably the right thing to do, but I wouldn't have minded contesting them. I think it's especially hard on the spectators who turned out to watch us."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "It's something of a surprise to see a snow tyre outperform an asphalt tyre in the wet. It didn't take me long to realise that I wouldn't be able to push as hard as I would have liked. It was dark, and I had trouble picking out the many places where there was running water on the road. We were aquaplaning all the time, even at low speeds. I didn't want to risk going off on the very first stage of the championship, so I decided to bide my time."

Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]:

"I enjoyed myself this afternoon. My car was easier to drive and I had a good feeling. I'm glad we succeeded in passing Urmo Aava and Mikko Hirvonen. Citro?n is first and second this evening, which is a great result, and we will need to keep that up tomorrow and on Sunday."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "It was crazy out there! The car did practically what it liked in those places where there was the most flooding. I lost a few seconds when I stalled in a hairpin on SS3 but I'm just glad we're still in the event."

Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"I was happier than this morning because I was more confident with the tyres. Considering it was 7?C and the roads were soaking wet, they worked amazingly well for a winter snow and ice pattern. I lost a few seconds on the final stage when I almost overshot a junction and stalled the engine as I handbraked the car round. Dani Sordo is in my sights as he is just 20sec ahead. Tomorrow's stages are faster so I hope I can pick up time on him. It's a shame tonight tests were cancelled because I enjoy driving in the dark and it would have been exciting. I hoped to regain some time on him in those stages."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "There was more water than I expected [this morning], so much that it was like driving through watersplashes, and I lost control completely in a couple of places. I wasn't so happy with my tyre choice. It was a 50-50 decision but I think the winter tyre would have been better. I hit a bump on the first stage and the impact damaged the light pod. It left the lights facing the wrong way and pointing straight at me through the windscreen. I couldn't see for the glare - but it took me about 5km before I realised all I had to do was to switch them off!"

Henning Solberg [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]:

"We are enjoying it and setting our own pace to try and finish in the top five, which is our main aim for the weekend. I'm much higher up the leaderboard than I thought I would be at this stage. It's better that there is more rain because the slippery conditions work in our favour and I find it easier to drive on tarmac like that. We are not going to worry about the fight for podium positions but just concentrate on finishing and looking ahead to Norway."

Conrad Rautenbach [Citroen Junior Team]:

"Maybe we were a little bit too careful in the first stage. We've had no problems at all and the car is working perfectly. I'm actually a bit disappointed that the final two stages were cancelled, as I would have loved to have ended the day with some night stages. I'm very pleased with this first day, but there's still a lot to do before we can think about the finish."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "I am pleased with my choice. We were possibly a little too cautious, but some of the other drivers have been having problems, whereas we are still in the fight. I think I'll continue to drive the same way this afternoon."

Sebastien Ogier [Citroen Junior Team]:

"By working with the team, we managed to turn it round. We found the right setup and chose the correct tyres for the conditions this afternoon. I'm almost disappointed that we can't carry on this evening. So now we're going to continue trying to make up the time lost in the morning."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "We didn't choose the right tyres in the morning and our set-up wasn't ideal for the first loop of stages. Our start position wasn't an advantage either as the roads were very dirty by the time we came through. But we've learnt a lot, even if it's been quite frustrating."

Chris Atkinson [Citroen Junior Team]:

"We had a spin in a very quick part of the [last] stage [of the day - SS6] and hit the right-hand side of our C4 WRC. We had a bit of a bump but we were able to carry on. It's a tricky place to get to learn the car and we're going to need some time to find our pace."

[Speaking in the mid-day service] "There was a huge amount of water on those narrow roads and pools of standing water everywhere. It's not really the best way to get to know a new car. We still need to learn."

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

"It was good to get into the points before the end of the day. We've grown in confidence as the day went on and I felt really able to push in places where the standing water wasn't so bad. I started to get a good feel for the Pirelli Sottozero tyre and even though there was some massive rivers running across the road you could still attack and be confident of the grip. We didn't have any major dramas after the first stage and we know what we need to do to move up tomorrow."

Khalid Al Qassimi [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"I entered a muddy corner [in SS4] and was trying to keep the car on the line but it slipped out and I lost control. We were heading for some trees on my left but at the last second I pulled the handbrake and hit a tree side-on. I was doing about 50kph and if I'd hit the tree head-on at that speed the impact would have caused far more damage."

Notable retirements:

Jari-Matti Latvala [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]: [retired from event in SS2 - went off the road]

"I came into a fast left corner that tightened, with a bank on the outside. The car snapped sideways in the water and I tried to correct it, but in doing so I was forced to cut and the front left of the car hit a rock. The impact threw the car across the road and into the bank. I drove 10km to the finish with two punctures. The front left track control arm was broken and although we tried to fix it with straps, they weren't strong enough. The driveshaft also came out but we were able to repair it. I'm so disappointed and feel I have let the team down. I should have been more careful."

Urmo Aava [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]: [retired from event in SS6 - went off the road]

"It's been a day of highs and lows. This morning started well and it was great to be leading for my new Stobart team at the first service. Obviously I was disappointed with my time loss this afternoon. We slid on some mud on a slow left hand corner and got beached on a ditch at the side of the road. We were pretty well stuck and it took quite a bit of time for the spectators to get us back onto the road. I have been very encouraged by my times today though and look forward to going back out tomorrow, doing more kilometres in the car and getting my confidence back."

Team principals:

Olivier Quesnel [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"We didn't get off to the best of starts. This morning we quite simply made a mistake with our tyre choice. The first stage was tough, but then S?bastien pulled up his sleeves and immediately got back into the swing. This afternoon, with everybody on a level playing field, he demonstrated that he is more than ever the man to beat in the WRC. Dani fulfilled his mission to the letter and the fact that we are provisionally first and second speaks volumes for the competitiveness of the C4 WRC. It seems as though we have started 2009 as we left off in 2008."

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

"It was the best start to an asphalt rally that I can remember with Focus cars holding first and second, but sadly it didn't last. Jari-Matti made an excellent tyre choice but was caught out in difficult conditions. His retirement put the team under pressure but Mikko responded well to hold third in what was a solid day."

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

"It's been the best-ever start to the season for the Stobart team and it's fantastic to have seen them leading in such treacherous conditions. It was unfortunate for Urmo that he couldn't get back on the road quickly, but Henning has driven really well and we still have two cars in the top eight. With the last two stages being cancelled due to the conditions it just shows how difficult today has been for the drivers and I think they have performed extremely well."

Benoit Nogier [Citroen Junior Team - team manager]:

"The day started well with a good tyre choice from Conrad in the morning. Conrad has ended up in an excellent position. As for Chris and S?bastien, they managed to improve their placing over the course of the day. In terms of the team, everything went like clockwork. We all worked well together despite the fact that we are now only allowed four mechanics per car, which is obviously a limiting factor. We're very hopeful heading into day two at this point. Today's conditions were especially bad, and there's a lot more good work that we can do tomorrow."



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