Dani Sordo has taken the lead of Rallye de France for Mini on the final stage of an eventful first day.
Local Alsace favourite Sebastien Loeb led through the opening two stages but then suffered an engine problem on the following stage and was forced to stop and retire. The points leader will not be able to restart via superally, not only stopping him from taking a points finish, but also from contesting the end-of-rally power stage.
This handed the lead to Citroen teammate Sebastien Ogier, but he lost the lead to privateer DS3 driver Petter Solberg on the penultimate stage, reporting engine problems of his own.
Sordo was third at this point, but won the final stage to overturn a three second deficit to Solberg and take the rally lead. He is one second ahead of the Norwegian overnight, and 2.8s ahead of Ogier.
Sordo's teammate Kris Meeke is fourth overall, 54.5s behind the Spaniard. He has the two factory Fords of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen just behind him in fifth and sixth respectively. Both Finns went off the road on SS3, with Hirvonen nearly a minute down in sixth and Latvala falling to ninth nearly 1 and a half minutes off the lead. Another off-road trip for Hirvonen on SS7 dropped him behind his teammate who had recovered to fifth. Hirvonen has the chance to eat into Loeb's 15 point lead if he can seal a strong result here.
Armindo Araujo is an impressive seventh in another Mini, with Mads Ostberg having slipped to eighth in the best of the M-Sport Stobart entries with a puncture. The Fords of Dennis Kuipers and Henning Solberg complete the top ten.
Evgeny Novikov is just behind his Norwegian teammate in 11th, ahead of SWRC leader Ott Tanak and Ken Block, who had been running tenth at midday service. Pierre Campana is next up in his Mini, ahead of Matthew Wilson and Khalid Al Qassimi.
Craig Breen leads the WRC Academy section ahead of Yeray Lemes and Alistair Fisher.
Kimi Raikkonen had a bizarre early exit from a top ten position when he managed to collide with Henning as the pair were warming up their tyres on a road section prior to SS2. The impact broke the suspension on Raikkonen's Citroen and put him into a ditch at the side of the road. The Finn has opted to go home rather than restart the rally tomorrow.
Top ten standings after SS8:
|1.||37||Dani Sordo||Mini||Mini John Cooper Works WRC||1:23:02.1|
|2.||11||Petter Solberg||PSWRT||Citroen DS3 WRC||+1.0|
|3.||2||Sebastien Ogier||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||+2.8|
|4.||52||Kris Meeke||Mini||Mini John Cooper Works WRC||+54.5|
|5.||4||Jari-Matti Latvala||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1:13.7|
|6.||3||Mikko Hirvonen||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1:20.6|
|7.||17||Armindo Araujo||Motorsport Italia||Mini John Cooper Works WRC||+2:23.1|
|8.||6||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:36.8|
|9.||9||Dennis Kuipers||Ferm||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:46.8|
|10.||15||Henning Solberg||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+3:18.0|