Sebastien Loeb has begun the 2009 World Rally Championship season in style and the Frenchman ended day 1 of the Rally Ireland with a very good 44.4 second advantage.

Although he struggled in the opening stage this morning, after opting for the wrong tyres, he soon bounced back and won SS2 and SS3. He then completed a clean sweep on the repeat loop and consequently is now well placed ahead of Saturday's second leg.

Speaking in the final service of the day, after SS7 and SS8 were cancelled, due to flooding, Seb warned though that it is far from over given the conditions are so tricky.

"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 this morning 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.

"On the repeat I felt a lot more confident with the 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."

Citroen boss Olivier Quesnel meanwhile was delighted with how the day shaped out and he hailed both Loeb and Dani Sordo, who lies second in the sister 'A' team C4 WRC.

"We didn't get off to the best of starts. This morning we quite simply made a mistake with our tyre choice," Quesnel conceded.

"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 too 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."



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