Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala won the qualifying stage on Rally New Zealand - and reckons it could be one of the most important of the season.
The Finn was quickest on Thursday morning's stage by 0.367sec from his Citroen-driving countryman Mikko Hirvonen.
"I knew qualifying was vital this morning, because more than half of the rally's competitive mileage is run tomorrow [Friday]," said Latvala. "It was really important to be able to pick the best place on the road, more important than anywhere else. Now I have the perfect opportunity to be in the best place tomorrow."
Latvala is most likely to run toward the back of the pack, due to the loose surface on the roads in the Raglan area on day one. His Ford teammate Petter Solberg was third quickest, with defending world champion Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) fourth, 0.893sec down on Latvala's fastest time.
Dani Sordo was seventh fastest on his return to the Prodrive WRC Team, as the Banbury Minis made their first appearance since Portugal over two months ago.
Leading qualifying times:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 2m31.864s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen 2m32.231s + 0.367s
3. Petter Solberg Ford 2m32.406s + 0.542s
4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 2m32.757s + 0.893s
5. Thierry Neuville Qatar Citroen 2m32.951s + 1.087s
6. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford 2m33.136s + 1.272s
7. Dani Sordo Prodrive Mini 2m33.236s + 1.372s
8. Jari Ketomaa Autotek Ford 2m33.946s + 2.082s
9. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford 2m34.185s + 2.321s
10. Manfred Stohl Brazil Ford 2m37.654s + 5.790s