Sebastien Ogier took an early lead in Rally Japan by winning both runs through the Sapporo superspecial on the opening evening.
Back in the works Citroen team this weekend as his drive-swapping with Dani Sordo continues, Ogier has a two-second advantage over Ford's Mikko Hirvonen.
Sordo, driving for Citroen Junior in Japan before rejoining the works squad for the subsequent asphalt rallies, is third, followed by Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford), Kimi Raikkonen (Citroen Junior) and Sebastien Loeb (Citroen). Just 0.4sec covers second to sixth places following the short opening stage. Raikkonen was an encouraging second quickest on the second run. A feverish Petter Solberg is 5.7sec off the lead in ninth and struggling with illness.
"I've been in bed the whole afternoon sweating and I'm not in very good form," he admitted. "But that's how it is. This is part of the game and I hope I'll be better for tomorrow. But today has been a very bad day."
While the majority of the rally route is on gravel, the Sapporo stadium is an asphalt stage, but it is used no fewer than eight times during the course of the event.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 2m43.2s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 2.0s
3. Dani Sordo Citroen + 2.1s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 2.3s
= Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 2.3s
6. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 2.4s
7. Federico Villagra Ford + 4.6s
8. Henning Solberg Ford + 5.7s
= Petter Solberg Citroen + 5.7s
10. Matthew Wilson Ford + 6.6s