Teemu Suninen was fastest during a busy shakedown at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB on Thursday morning.
The Finn, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta, was quickest through the slippery 3.37km Clocaenog speed test by 0.2sec from a trio of drivers tied in second.
Team-mates Sébastien Ogier and 2017 rally winner Elfyn Evans and Jari-Matti Latvala all stopped the clocks on the same tenth.
It was a less successful morning for man-of-the-moment Ott Tänak. The Estonian, the winner of the last three rounds, had an early scare when his Toyota Yaris slid straight on under braking for a right corner and hit a bank during his first run.
When asked how he left the road so early in the session, Tänak said, “I had some electrical issue with the wipers, there was something before the corner, and I tried to get them in the position so I could see out of the screen again. When I looked out, the corner was already there, and I was much too quick, I should have been concentrating on the main job!”
He drove to the finish but returned to the Deeside service park where the cooling package was replaced after a small leak was spotted. He went back out and completed three more runs to finish last of the 11 World Rally Car drivers.
The muddy gravel roads quickly became polished and even more slippery as the morning went on and most drivers posted their fastest time on their first or second pass.
The exception was Ogier who posted his best time in his fifth run in a Fiesta. Evans and Latvala, driving a Yaris, claimed their best performances in their opening pass while Suninen’s quickest time came in his second run.
Craig Breen was fifth in a Citroën C3, just 0.1sec behind, with championship leader Thierry Neuville topping Hyundai Motorsport’s challenge in sixth, 0.4sec behind in an i20.
In WRC2, Kalle Rovanperä gave himself a little birthday present when he beat everyone else in WRC 2 with his best time of 2:07.02. He seems well prepared for his birthday rally.
Finn Taisko Lario was the quickest of the WRC3 runners today, who, despite a puncture posted a time of 2:28.2 in his Peugeot 208 R2.