The unofficial start of the 39th edition of the Rally Catalunya-Costa Brava took place this morning with the traditional pre-event shakedown in the Coll del Buc stage near Espinelves.

The best time of the day was set by the Ford driver Markko Martin, who was followed by young team-mate Mikko Hirvonen, who finished ahead of fellow Finn, and two-time world champion Marcus Gronholm's Peugeot.

The title challengers also ran close to Martin's leading time, with Subaru driver Petter Solberg coming out on top, in fourth position. Richard Burns was seventh in his Peugeot, while local hero Carlos Sainz and Frenchman S?bastien Loeb took ninth and tenth positions respectively for Citroen, only three seconds from Martin's effort.

The shakedown was the last opportunity for all the teams to test in the sort conditions they will encounter from the very first stage onwards tomorrow [Friday], with high humidity a factor that will have a big influence on the tyre choice.

In the Junior World Championship, the Rally Catalunya will witness the struggle for the championship lead between Brice Tirabassi's Renault Clio, the current leader, and local RACC driver, Salvador Ca?ellas, who lies second in the overall qualification with his Suzuki Ignis. During the shakedown, Ca?ellas reckoned that he and his team were confident of a good run having 'done their homework done with many tests before coming here'.