At the wheel of a MINI John Cooper Works WRC, Sordo set a fastest time of 2m34.1s through the 3.8-kilometre Parc des Sports-Hautepierre stage this morning. He was 0.3s faster than factory Ford pilot Jari-Matti Latvala with Petter Solberg 0.6s further back in his similar Fiesta.
Sebastien Loeb, who can secure his ninth WRC drivers’ crown in France this week, covered the practice stage in 2m35.5s with Thierry Neuville 0.2s behind his fellow Citroen driver. Shakedown began in dry conditions at 07:30hrs local time this morning although there was light drizzle later in the morning.
While Sordo’s Prodrive team played down the Spaniard’s effort, admitting the shakedown stage was not “indicative” of the bulk of the competitive route, it follows on the back of a successful pre-event test and the introduction of a new engine software calibration and an enhanced gear cut to improve shift speeds.
“It's the first time I have driven the car with these changes, but it feels much better and stronger,” said Sordo. “I am also really pleased the FIA has agreed all WRC cars can have gravel notes. I am sure the times will be close this week, so every little bit of time we can find will help.”
Mikko Hirvonen and Nasser Al-Attiyah were joined sixth fastest in their Citroens. Mads Ostberg was eighth quickest with Evgeny Novikov ninth and Ott Tanak 10th.
Top 10 shakedown times
1 Dani Sordo (MINI) 2m34.1s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala (Ford) 2m34.4s
3 Petter Solberg (Ford) 2m35.0s
4 Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) 2m35.5s
5 Thierry Neuville (Citroen) 2m35.7s
6 Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen) 2m37.5s
= Nasser Al-Attiyah (Citroen) 2m37.5s
8 Mads Ostberg (Ford) 2m38.0s
9 Evgeny Novikov (Ford) 2m39.4s
10 Ott Tanak (Ford) 2m40.0s.