Citroen number two driver, Francois Duval set the pace in the shakedown for the Rallye Deutschland this morning, the Belgian managing to complete the short test between Sotern and Bosen in 1 minute 49.3 seconds.

Stephane Sarrazin was 'best of the rest' and second overall for Subaru, just 0.4 seconds slower in his Impreza, while Petter Solberg was third, 1 second behind.

Rally Finland winner, Marcus Gronholm took fourth spot, closely followed by his team-mate, Markko Martin.

Skoda's Armin Schwarz came in sixth, with Gigi Galli seventh for Mitsubishi and current championship leader, Sebastien Loeb rounded out the top eight, ahead of Harri Rovanpera and Roman Kresta.

"Shakedown was fairly standard for us, just testing different settings with the roll bars and suspension," commented Rovanpera. "This is only my second asphalt event with Pirelli, but I feel quite comfortable with the situation. The biggest downside is that this is like a new rally for me. I have completely new pace notes and while I don't feel it's a big disadvantage, I obviously have very limited memory of the stages. All in all it's going to be a difficult weekend but we'll be trying as hard as ever."

"Basically our work at shakedown this morning focused on confirming the work we did during our tarmac test," added Mitsubishi principal rally engineer Roger Estrada. "With some fine-turning, the drivers seem to be happy. We are led to believe the weather will remain overcast and at the moment, no rain."

Nicolas Bernardi meanwhile was the top privateer in his Peugeot 206, 13th quickest overall, while Antony Warmbold had an accident in the pre-event recce and will therefore now miss his home event.

The Rallye Deutschland officially starts at the Porta Nigra [Black Gate] in Trier this evening, but the crews re-start in Bostalsee - 60 to the kilometers south east - on Friday for the opening leg over the picturesque but narrow and bumpy roads in the Mosel vineyards. Here, square junctions and fast straight roads are lined with tall vines, requiring precision driving. The leg takes in six stages and 119.38 competitive kilometres.



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