Dani Sordo leads the Rally of France into day two, having put Mini into first position for the first time in its World Rally Championship comeback.
The Spaniard went into the afternoon in a close third behind Citroen's Sebastien Ogier and Solberg Citroen's Petter Solberg. Ogier lost ground on the penultimate stage, fearing a problem with his car, and Solberg moved into the lead. But Sordo then jumped ahead of both of them with an excellent time on the leg-closing Salm stage.
"I'm really, really, really happy," said Sordo. "I think we worked so hard for this and now it's in a good place. There are still two days to go but today was critical. To be leading the Citroens is very nice..."
Solberg will start day two exactly one second behind the Mini.
"The only thing is to go flat-out, that's the main thing," said Solberg.
Ogier completed the loop in third, 1.8sec down on Solberg and 2.8sec off the lead. He remained puzzled by his car's performance, having feared an engine problem on SS7.
"I don't know what happened exactly," said Ogier. "It smelled a lot of fuel in the car. I can be faster than that – I tried to push, and I lost time all the time. The team has to check it."
Kris Meeke escaped a spin on Salm to finish the day in fourth ahead of the two Fords, with Jari-Matti Latvala now ahead of Mikko Hirvonen, after another excursion for the title contender on SS7 dropped him down to sixth.
"We are a little bit behind, we should be a few places higher, but OK," Hirvonen admitted. "It's been a difficult day; the rhythm hasn't been the best. Tomorrow I have to get at least two positions higher, so hopefully I can achieve that."
Adding to Mini's good day, privateer Armindo Araujo holds an excellent seventh position, having gotten ahead of Mads Ostberg when the Stobart Ford had a puncture.
Leading positions after SS8:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Dani Sordo Mini 1h23m02.1s
2. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 1.0s
3. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 2.8s
4. Kris Meeke Mini + 54.5s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m13.7s
6. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 1m20.6s
7. Armindo Araujo Italia Mini + 2m23.1s
8. Mads Ostberg Stobart Ford + 2m36.8s
9. Dennis Kuipers FERM Ford + 2m46.8s
10. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 3m18.0s