Petter Solberg set the fastest time at the pre-event shakedown test for this week's Rally d'Italia.
The Norwegian tested his Citroen DS3 WRC for a day in France last week and pronounced himself confident and ready to win the Olbia-based event. Solberg was seven tenths of a second faster than Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala, who was second quickest over the 1.2-mile stage.
"It's gone well this morning, I'm happy," said Solberg. "I feel confident with the car. I did 150 kilometers in the test last week, we changed a few things, but really it was just time in the car for me."
Solberg's only problem on the test was suffering some tire problems with the new hard compound Michelin cover he was running.
"We had a tire come off the rim seven times in the test," said Solberg. "I think it was a problem with the wheel rim. We're using the same manufacturer of rims as the factory team, but not exactly the same wheel as them. Now we are using those rims, we didn't have the problem. But, for this week, like I said, I am happy and confident. I need the points. I need to win some rallies now."
All eyes were on the two factory Minis, competing for the first time in Sardinia. Dani Sordo was the fastest of the two John Cooper Works WRCs, posting a 1m48.2s (0.7sec ahead of Latvala's teammate Mikko Hirvonen) while Meeke was 1.5sec behind the Spaniard.
"I haven't even looked at the times," said Meeke. "There was no point in trying to do anything at that shakedown stage. You couldn't use that stage to try and build the confidence or anything like that. The road was hellishly rough, if you ran wide in a corner, you ran the risk of hitting a rock the size of a transit van."
Despite the hype building around the event, Meeke said he remained focused on the job in hand.
"I've been waiting for this all of my driving career, I'm not about to choke now," said Meeke. "It would be easy to get drawn into the whole thing, especially when we're at the launch and things like that, but when I close the door and pull on the helmet, I'm in the office and this is another rally. We have a job to do."