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

"I started with plenty of confidence after Sweden and felt relaxed. It's a big surprise for me to lead because my pre-event target was to look for a podium. It's more than I expected or dreamed about. I kept a good pace all day and the whole package has worked well - car, driver, co-driver and tyres. I had some big impacts on stones this morning but Pirelli's tyres stood up well.

"It will be interesting to be first in the start order tomorrow on the gravely roads, but I was second today and there's not such a big difference. I don't want to think about it too much, I just want to get into the car and see what happens. The plan is to drive in the same way as I did on the slippery roads this morning. The stages are tricky so I need to find the same relaxed feeling."

Sebastien Loeb [Citroen Total WRT]:

"I had a bit of trouble settling in during the morning's loop. The stages hadn't been swept sufficiently clean by the drivers ahead of us on the road and the grip available with our hard compound Pirelli Scorpion tyres wasn't ideal. We tried to counter that by making a small change to our set-up before the start of SS2, which paid off. We managed to close to within 4.4s of the lead and we kept to the same rhythm this afternoon to maintain the gap at less than 10 seconds. We will work a little more on the set-up during this evening's service halt with the intention of pushing hard again tomorrow."

Chris Atkinson [Subaru WRT]:

"Today has not been bad for us and we're in a good position to push hard tomorrow. We'll have to see whether we can close the gap to Sebastien and Jari-Matti as it won't be easy. It was my mistake to spin in the final stage, and giving a few seconds away to these guys isn't the smartest, but that's how it goes. It won't be easy for sure, and I have Petter and Hirvonen behind so we will push hard as always and see."

Petter Solberg [Subaru WRT]:

"Considering we lost a minute this morning, fourth today is not bad. We have won two stages, and we are pushing so hard but it will not be easy. We have two tough days left. The rocks in the stages this afternoon were incredible, just right in the middle of the road. They were so big, I don't know how they got there. If I didn't go off the road to avoid them, that would have been it. When you're going flat out, it's hard to avoid things like that but you still just have to commit."

Mikko Hirvonen [BP Ford Abu Dhabi WRT]:

"I don't know what I hit [in SS5 this afternoon] but I slid wide in a couple of corners towards some stones so maybe that was the cause. There was a crack in the wheel rim and slowly the tyre lost air before coming off the rim completely with about 3km to go. It was a slow puncture so I decided not to stop to change it and drove for about 15km like that. It was the right decision.

"It's annoying when your young team-mate is beating you, and it wasn't the car or my road position that was the reason why Jari-Matti is so far ahead of me. He's driven very well. The time gap between myself and Loeb is what I expected but the difference to Jari-Matti is far more than I thought. I need to find more speed tomorrow. This morning's conditions were as I expected. It was difficult in the braking areas and the loose gravel meant there was no traction accelerating out of the bends."

Henning Solberg [Munchi's Ford WRT]:

"The afternoon has been okay. My times are not so bad but I could have done better if there hadn't been so much dust in the car."

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

"The speed this morning was very good for us despite being held up in Toni's dust on stage 2 where we lost around 50 seconds. The first two in the afternoon weren't the best for me because the roads had cleared up which offered more grip that I didn't quite use to full effect. The final proper stage before the super specials was really good though and had if it not been for a couple of silly little mistakes we would have been well under a second a kilometre off the fastest guys. This was a good way to finish the day as we head into tomorrow which I know will be another challenging leg. We had a small problem with the ignition coil at the end of the final super special but my mechanics did a super job in flexi service to bring the Focus back as good as new for tomorrow."

Federico Villagra [Munchi's Ford WRT]:

"All is okay. We are still discovering the rally but having a lot of fun! The stages are very nice."

Sebastien Ogier [Citroen C2 S1600 - JWRC]:

"At the start of the day, we experienced a small problem. The spare wheel strap was broken, so we had to change it on the road section on the way to the first stage. Then at the end of that first stage we had a front-left puncture. On the following stages we decided to slow down slightly in order to avoid another puncture, and that worked well for us. We're pleased to have set nearly all the fastest times on our first rally so far, but we're keeping our feet firmly on the ground. We cannot take anything for granted, and the finish is not until Sunday."

Jaan Molder [Suzuki Swift S1600 - JWRC]:

"It's been a very good day for us with no problems at all. We only had a very minor thing with the alternator on a hairpin in SS6. Apart from that I've just been concentrating on keeping a clean and tidy line. The Swift feels very good to drive, and it's clearly had some more development compared to the car I drove last year."

Michal Kosciuszko [Suzuki Swift S1600 - JWRC]:

"I drove carefully today; maybe a bit too carefully in places. Everything went well but I didn't really feel at ease in SS2, which was repeated as SS5. Maybe my notes were not quite right or something like that. The stages are very beautiful and I'm really enjoying them but I need to push a bit harder tomorrow."

Aaron Burkart [Citroen C2 S1600 - JWRC]:

"On one special stage this morning, I nearly ran over a dog - so I lost a bit of time avoiding it. On the whole though, the first loop of stages went well for us. I was a bit tense before our first rally of the year, and I think that showed through the first few stages. The afternoon was much better for us, and we set some decent times."

Shaun Gallagher [Citroen C2 S1600 - JWRC]:

"The car was really good this morning but I still didn't feel comfortable as I was sick. After I saw Citro?n's doctor at lunchtime the afternoon went better. My feeling with the C2 Super 1600 is improving with every stage we do. I hope that we'll go a bit better tomorrow so that I can concentrate 100 per cent on my driving ; especially as it's the longest day in terms of competitive kilometres."

Notable retirements:

Daniel Sordo [Citroen Total WRT]: [retired from day 1 in SS1 - suspension - will re-start on day 2 under the SupeRally]

"I don't know what happened. I was keeping to the line made by previous competitors through a left-hand corner, but there must have been a rock because the wishbone broke. It's bitterly disappointing. Up to that point, we had found a good pace and our split times were looking good."

Conrad Rautenbach [PH Sport-Citroen C4 WRC]: [retired from day 1 in SS3 - damaged suspension - will re-start on day 2 under the SupeRally]

"I'm so disappointed with this result. After the test in France, everything felt really good for this event. The C4 is easier to drive than the Xsara I'd used for the last three rallies, so straight away I was more comfortable in the car. David [Senior - my co-driver] and I had a good recce, and we had a plan to be sensible here and try to take a [drivers' championship] point from this event. That was exactly what I had done this morning - no risks, just driving in the middle of the road. We hadn't had any moments. We came towards the end of the third stage and I turned into a corner, we touched the bank on the outside with the front-right wheel on full lock and that was the end of that. The TCA had broken. I tried to carry on to try and get out of the stage, but we just couldn't make it through the next corner. I can't believe it.

"The times were good this morning and then the splits in the third stage were also encouraging - particularly when you think about what our plan had been and the fact that we hadn't taken any chances. Looking at the leaderboard now, at the end of day one, I know that we could have been in seventh place. That just makes the whole thing even worse. The positive from this is that I'm comfortable and confident in the car. And now I'm going to push on tomorrow and see what kind of times we can set. I don't know if this was bad luck, my mistake or just one of those things that can happen in rallying. One thing is for sure, though, tomorrow is another day and we'll be out there to see what we can do in the C4 WRC."

Per-Gunnar Andersson [Suzuki WRT]: [retired from event in service A - engine]

"The fact that we were sixth when we stopped just goes to show the potential of the whole SX4 WRC package. We had a very good run through the morning's stages, although the suspension set-up was a little too hard. Considering that we had no testing before the event, I think it was really good. Unfortunately we then had an engine problem, and this is something that we need to sort out. Once that is done though, we will be in a good position. I'm quite confident that we could have taken points here."

Toni Gardemeister [Suzuki WRT]: [retired from event in SS4 - engine]

"Unfortunately my 100th rally has been memorable for the wrong reasons! We didn't really get a chance to show what we were capable of today as from the first stage the engine was down on power and we just had to try and get through the opening loop. It was a strange problem as sometimes there was power and other times there wasn't. I've got every confidence that the team will find out what the problem is; we have to remember that the car is still very new, and we have a lot of work to do."

Gigi Galli [Stobart VK M-Sport Ford WRT]: [retired from event in SS4 - suspension]

"I am very disappointed with what happened on stage 4 today and the fact we have retired from the event. It was the first corner and I came flat in third gear and the car slid too wide and we banged into a rock. We tried to fix the problem on the stage but ended up losing too much time and had to retire. It was just so silly because everything was feeling good and it was so unlucky that we hit the rock because I felt like I was set up well for the fast left-hand corner. The first two stages today were very good and I actually didn't really expect to get such good times because we were taking no risks and just driving sensibly and everything, the car, tyres and setup, was all perfect. I had a slight problem with a pacenote on stage 3 and we spun into a ditch and were stuck for a while as there were only four spectators to help us out there. It is a shame I only got to drive about 60 kilometres on gravel and with the new tyres but the experience will help me when we go to Argentina for the next round."

Martin Prokop [Citroen C2 S1600 - JWRC]: [retired from day 1 in SS4 - broken engine sensor - will re-start on day 2 under SupeRally]

"We just got caught out on the first stage and so we rolled three times. The car was on its roof and it took us a while to get it back on its wheels as there were no spectators around to help. There was quite a lot of damage to the bodywork, the left-rear window was broken and the interior of the car was covered in dust. Luckily we were able to get through the next two stages and reach the service park. Unfortunately, we had to retire in SS4 at the start of the second loop with a broken engine sensor. We plan to re-start tomorrow morning under the SupeRally system though."

Team principals:

Olivier Quesnel [Citroen Total WRT - team principal]:

"It's been a bit of a mixed day. The first day turned out to be very difficult, as we can see by the high number of retirements. They weren't entirely happy with the set-up of their Citro?n C4, but S?bastien and Daniel did a superb job in limiting the damage. They are in a strong position to retaliate tomorrow and Sunday, while Dani and Marc will also line up for the start in the morning in a bid to pick up some extra Manufacturers' points."

[Speaking in service A] "After our misadventure with the engine of S?bastien and Daniel [Elena] yesterday, today's blow took a little time to sink in. Even so, everyone at Citro?n Sport soon snapped back into action to get Dani and Marc [Marti] back running [and ready to re-start on day 2 under the SupeRally]. Meanwhile, S?bastien and Daniel claimed the fastest time on SS2 and SS3 to move closer to top spot and that was an excellent boost for everyone's morale; there was still plenty of fight left in us!"

David Richards [Subaru WRT - managing director]:

"We've again shown that we have the pace to win stages on this event, and despite some problems this morning Chris is on the podium and Petter is close enough to have his sights set on the top three. It has been a hard day for the cars and drivers, and it is encouraging to see that Pirelli's new gravel tyre has worked very well in what have been very tough conditions."

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

"I have been very impressed with Matthew today. His times this morning were quick and he is showing a lot more improvement compared to last year. Hopefully he can keep this pace for the rest of the event as he is currently looking good for a points finish. It has been a disappointing day for Gigi and I am a bit disappointed that his great start to the season has taken a knock. Sadly he can't continue tomorrow under SupeRally rules and gain further experience on gravel ahead of Rally Argentina. Tomorrow will be a difficult day and today we have already seen several casualties amongst the top running competitors."

Nobuhiro Tajima [Suzuki WRT - team boss]:

"I feel so very sorry for both of our drivers, especially Toni who was starting his 100th WRC rally here. This was an incredibly disappointing experience for all of us. As was the case in Monte Carlo and Sweden, we have been stopped by an engine problem and we suspect that it is for a similar reason, although we will only know for sure once we fully examine the cars. It's clear that we have an issue with the engines, but under the current engine linking regulations we are not permitted to change the engine during or in between the rallies to try and understand the problem. As a new team we want to and we need to improve: but sometimes this is not easy when the rules are not in your favour as a newcomer. It was always going to be tough for us here. Toni did not really have a chance today, but until his retirement P-G was again doing a fantastic job for us. The potential is still very much there and we all have confidence that we will bounce back from this disappointment."

"The Junior drivers have followed instructions perfectly so far, to get to the finish without taking any unnecessary risks. I hope they can see now how this cautious approach pays off. Relatively speaking the gaps between the top three drivers are very close. However, each driver must just focus on doing their own rally and steering clear of punctures rather than chasing the person in front. The best way to learn is by gradually increasing the pace."

 

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