Guy Wilks leads an Intercontinental Rally Challenge round for the first time this year after narrowly beating Kris Meeke through the Scone Palace stages that kicked off Rally Scotland.
While the Skoda UK driver led, factory Skoda man Juho Hanninen became series champion automatically as the event got underway. The only person who could still beat Hanninen to the IRC title was his teammate Jan Kopecky, and Skoda's decision not to enter the Czech driver in Scotland guaranteed that Hanninen would wrap up the championship – albeit in unusual circumstances.
A small excursion at the start of the first run through tonight's 3.37-kilometer asphalt stage delayed Hanninen this evening, so he will start tomorrow's forest tests in sixth place, 11.5 seconds off the lead.
Up front, Wilks and Meeke (Peugeot UK) have already resumed their 2009 Scotland battle. Wilks was fastest by 1.7sec on the first run, and the pair then took a joint stage win when Scone Palace was repeated for SS2.
Andreas Mikkelsen is currently a promising third in the Hankook Ford, ahead of Meeke's Kronos Peugeot team-mate Thierry Neuville, and Proton's Alister McRae, who will be very keen to repeat his 2009 podium after the team's tough season. Just 0.3sec covers Neuville, McRae and Hanninen at present.
While British champion Keith Cronin has made a cautious start in the second works Proton and is back in ninth, Tom Cave has got his satellite Satria into seventh.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Guy Wilks Skoda 4m16.0s
2. Kris Meeke Peugeot + 1.7s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen Ford + 9.0s
4. Thierry Neuville Peugeot + 11.2s
5. Alister McRae Proton + 11.3s
6. Juho Hanninen Skoda + 11.5s
7. Tom Cave Proton + 18.0s
8. Jonathan Greer Mitsubishi + 19.6s
9. Keith Cronin Proton + 20.2s
10. David Bogie Mitsubishi + 21.9s