Sebastien Loeb holds his habitual lead in Rally Germany, but it took the eight-time event winner three stages to reach the front.
Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala was quickest on the dry first stage, but both the Finn and his teammate Mikko Hirvonen lost a lot of time when rain hit on SS2. They had gone with hard tires, while the Citroens used softs – which proved much better suited to the increasingly damp roads.
"I knew it if was raining I'd lose the rally if I was on hard tires, and I didn't want to take that risk," said Loeb, after the Citroens gained half a minute on the Fords on the stage.
Loeb's teammate Sebastien Ogier took the lead at the end of the stage, but it was the World Champion who gained the advantage by the end of the third test, with a fastest time on Moselland putting him 4.4sec clear of his compatriot as they head for service. Hirvonen is their nearest rival but is now 35.2sec adrift in third. Latvala fell back to seventh place when he picked up a puncture on Moselland.
Mini has made a superb start to the rally, with Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke holding fourth and fifth at present, ahead of Petter Solberg's Citroen.
Mads Ostberg ran eighth until his Stobart Ford sustained suspension damage on SS3. His teammate Henning Solberg is now in that position, despite brake issues, and is just ahead of Kimi Raikkonen (Ice 1 Citroen), Dennis Kuipers (FERM Ford) and Armindo Araujo (Italia Mini).
Leading positions after SS3:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 39m34.2s
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 4.4s
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 35.2s
4. Dani Sordo Mini + 55.6s
5. Kris Meeke Mini + 1m10.5s
6. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 1m16.8s
7. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2m00.8s
8. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 2m03.4s
9. Kimi Raikkonen Ice 1 Citroen + 2m07.1s
10. Dennis Kuipers FERM Ford + 2m11.6s