Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

''Running first on the road meant that I was able to profit from nice clean lines. I spent the morning trying to make the most of that in order to build up as big a lead as possible before we move on to the loose. OK, we're not going as quickly as we normally would on asphalt, but I have to say that my C4 WRC is quite enjoyable to drive. The important thing was to strike the ideal balance and not slide about too much, but it was fun.

''I took things fairly cautiously on SS6 because my tyres were fairly worn by then. The gap with Mikko is bigger than I had been expecting, but he's not going to just sit back and let me just cruise home to Sunday's finish! That said, a great deal will depend on the weather: if it continues to rain, being first on the road on Saturday could turn out not to be a disadvantage...''

Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]:]

''The morning went very well. I felt more comfortable on SS2 and SS3 because the tyres gave more and more grip as they started to wear. At the end of the day, though, I didn't find driving in these conditions to be that much fun because you've got to hold back all the time in order to look after your tyres.

''I think I've been driving reasonably well. I dropped a little time at the start of SS6 because of the rain but things picked up after that and I went on to collect my first fastest time of the season.''

Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

''It was a hard morning because the grip level changed all the time. Although the roads were dry, the surface was dusty and they were slippery and unpredictable and I wasn't totally confident. My tyres felt they were losing their edge on the last stage so I drove more cautiously, but actually they were fine at the finish. I just wasn't used to the feeling of gravel tyres on asphalt.

''My driving was much better [this afternoon]. I got used to the conditions and the tyres but it was harder to find a rhythm on such twisty roads than I thought it would be. Tomorrow's stages are very rocky in places so I'm glad there is only one pass over each test. I hope it doesn't rain tonight. Third in the start order tomorrow in the dry will give me an advantage over the two drivers ahead who will have to sweep the loose gravel clear. If it rains then the advantage will be lost.''

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

''The afternoon was better than the morning and my tyre strategy worked well after lunch. Using gravel tyres was fine but I needed time to learn how to use them on this surface. I was too aggressive on the opening stage but once I understood what I needed to do, then things improved and the experience was better than I expected it to be.

''There was more grip on the abrasive sections but the smooth asphalt wasn't so good. It was frustrating to try so hard and still lose time but I didn't lose as much as I feared. I was realistic about how I would perform on asphalt and I'm looking forward to getting onto gravel tomorrow for the first time this season."

Petter Solberg [PS WRT - Citroen Xsara WRC]:

"The day was OK. We had no major problems, but lost some time on SS4 when the front left damper broke. Also this is the first time we have been driving on these dry conditions with this car, it rained on our test day."

Sebastien Ogier [Citroen Junior Team]:

"The roads were already very dirty, even though just six WRC cars were in front of us, but I am happy with our performances. We're less than half a second per kilometre off Sebastien Loeb in some places, and I think that we can still do better. There's still a long way to go. Tomorrow, we'll try to set off at a good pace. We need to try and get closer to Petter Solberg with the aim of taking fifth place."

Evgeny Novikov [Citroen Junior Team]:

"We made a few small mistakes in the morning and had a slight impact on SS4. The car is extremely competitive. Our fifth-fastest time this evening is encouraging for the rest of the event. I'm keen to get onto gravel now tomorrow, where I'm going to try and keep up the same pace."

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

"Today was very difficult. It was hard to know how to drive on asphalt with the gravel tyres. It was good to end the day in the points and to be able to concentrate on the gravel stages tomorrow. I've really liked this rally in the past so I hope tomorrow I'll be able to increase my speed. Hopefully there will not be too much rain tonight so that the stages stay the same as they were on the recce. It was frustrating to have an issue with the brakes today and that meant that we lost quite a bit of time. There were a few heavy showers on the last stage but that didn't really affect the grip."

Conrad Rautenbach [Citroen Junior Team]:

"It was a tricky day. On the second loop of stages, we had some rain and so we lost time. The car is competitive and there is still an extremely long way to go on this event. Let's see what happens tomorrow."

Khalid Al-Qassimi [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

''It was an interesting day! I realised at lunchtime that I could drive more quickly and I was pleased with my times generally, although conditions were even more slippery in the rain this afternoon. Tomorrow is a whole different rally. It's a different surface, a different set-up and a different way of driving. There is no room to cut corners, the stages are technical and it will be hard for both cars and drivers.''

Notable retirements:

Henning Solberg [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]: [retired from leg following accident on road section prior to SS1]

"It is really, really disappointing as I had a good feeling coming into the rally. I was driving steadily to the start and a vehicle that had pulled over to the side of the road suddenly changed direction and steered into the path of my car. I tried to repair it but there was too much damage to the cooling system. I hope to get back tomorrow but my hopes of a good result are gone. Now I just have to hope to pick up manufacturer points. My plan tomorrow is to go out and set some good times; my chance of getting good driver points has gone but I would like to set some fast times."

Team principals:

Olivier Quesnel [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"This evening's situation is what we had been targeting. Asphalt tends to suit us and, despite the cars' rather unusual specification, our drivers showed that they felt comfortable in today's conditions. We go into the second phase of the event on top, but it's really a new rally that starts tomorrow..."

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

"It's been a difficult start for the Stobart team and it has put them on the back foot for the rest of the rally. Matthew has been steady today though, I know he didn't feel at home on the stages today but I'm sure he will be back in the groove tomorrow on the classic gravel roads. I think we will see him closer to the leaders. Today was bitterly disappointing for Henning but the car is fully prepared for tomorrow and he will be keen to punch in a few good times and there's still a chance of him collecting some points for the team."

Benoit Nogier [Citroen Junior Team - team principal]:

"Our drivers showed their capabilities by proving to be more competitive than their direct rivals, even though they made some small mistakes that were mostly down to lack of experience. The Citroen C4 WRCs had no problems whatsoever. Tomorrow, we will face gravel. We're all hoping to get a lot out of the second day here, even though the rain that we are experiencing at the moment is likely to shake things up a bit."

 

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