Belgian youngster Thierry Neuville made a surprisingly commanding start to the Tour de Corse by winning the rally's opening pair of stages on Thursday afternoon.
The Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg driver scored an impressive podium result on the previous round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge in the Canary Islands and began the Corsican event in even better form by recording the fastest time on both runs through the 27.53 km Le Fangu-Notre Dame de la Serra stage.
Jan Kopecky was second fastest on the opening run and then third on the second run. The Skoda Motorsport driver is second overall, 8.9 seconds behind Neuville.
Monte Carlo Rally winner Bryan Bouffier is third for Peugeot France, taking the position from Skoda UK's Andreas Mikkelsen on stage two. Bouffier had complained of a problem with his steering wheel at the end of the first stage, but this problem was solved in the service break between the two runs through the stage.
Freddy Loix is fifth in his BFO Skoda, moving ahead of Peugeot UK's Guy Wilks by going second quickest to compatriot Neuville on the second stage after stiffening his car's rear suspension between the two stages. Despite losing eight seconds with a spin on the opening stage, Wilks completed the first test just 9.7 seconds down on Neuville, but the deficit to his Kronos stablemate on the next stage was two tenths larger.
Local man Pierre Campana was seventh quickest on both runs through the stage and holds the same position on the overall leaderboard in his 207. Bruno Magalhaes is eighth for Peugeot Sport Portugal, with Toni Gardemeister ninth in his own TGS Worldwide entered-Skoda. Julien Maurin rounds out the top ten in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
Outside of the top ten, Patrik Sandell is 13th on his IRC debut with Skoda Sweden, while Toshi Arai is 16th on the debut of the R4-specification Subaru Impreza. Florian Gonon leads the Production Cup in 15th overall, just behind 2WD Cup leader Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi.
Top ten positions after SS2:
|1||5||Thierry Neuville||Peugeot Belux||Peugeot 207||32:08.0|
|2||4||Jan Kopecky||Skoda||Å koda Fabia||+8.9|
|3||1||Bryan Bouffier||Peugeot France||Peugeot 207||+12.4|
|4||6||Andreas Mikkelsen||Skoda UK||Å koda Fabia||+13.8|
|5||2||Freddy Loix||BFO Skoda||Å koda Fabia||+19.2|
|6||3||Guy Wilks||Peugeot UK||Peugeot 207||+19.6|
|7||10||Pierre Campana||Munaretto||Peugeot 207||+25.0|
|8||7||Bruno Magalhaes||Peugeot Portugal||Peugeot 207||+39.6|
|9||8||Toni Gardemeister||TGS Worldwide||Å koda Fabia||+54.6|
|10||11||Julien Maurin||Privateer||Ford Fiesta||+1:19.5|