At the wheel of a Citroen DS3 WRC, Sordo set a fastest time of 2m36.5s through the 3.8-kilometre Parc des Sports-Hautepierre stage this morning.
In dry and sunny conditions, he was 1.5s faster than Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville who tied second quickest with Mikko Hirvonen in a Citroen DS3.
Sordo, who secured his maiden WRC win on the all-asphalt Rallye Deutschland in August, returned to the Citroen service area in high spirits. “I’m feeling very, very good and happy to have set the fastest time,” he told wrc.com.
“The car is feeling good and maybe the confidence that comes with winning a rally is helping. It will give me a boost, but of course it’s not everything. I think road position is going to be important here.
“We’re fifth on the road, and there is a possibility of rain so it will be muddy and slippery but there’s nothing I can do about that. We’ll just do our best,” added Sordo, who was also fastest on the Rallye de France shakedown in 2012, when he drove a Mini JCW.
Neuville, who was Sordo’s closest challenger in Germany, warned against reading too much into the shakedown times. “It’s not very representative of the rally roads, but the car did feel good,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala was fourth quickest, with outgoing World Champion Sebastien Loeb tying fifth fastest with his likely successor Sebastien Ogier.
Ogier, who can secure the 2013 WRC drivers’ crown this week, had a scare approaching the first left-hand corner of his first run when a sunken metal bollard began to rise automatically to block the road. Luckily, Ogier heeded spectator warnings and stopped in time. “It’s a good job I was flagged down because if I had hit it my weekend would have been over,” he told wrc.com.
It’s the second time that Ogier has found his way blocked this season. In Mexico his co-driver Julien Ingrassia had to get out and open a gate that had swung shut across the stage. “This time Julien could not open it,” quipped Ogier.
After this morning’s prelude, the real competitive action begins this afternoon. The opening test, the Strasbourg Power Stage, begins at 1600hrs and could decide this year’s WRC drivers’ championship.
Here are the shakedown times of the leading WRC crews. (+ times relative to Sordo’s):
1. Dani Sordo: 2min 36.5sec
2. Thierry Neuville: +1.5s
3. Mikko Hirvonen: +1.5s
4. Jari-Matti Latvala: +2.5s
5. Sebastien Loeb: +2.9s
6. Sebastien Ogier: +2.9s
7. Andreas Mikkelsen: +3.1s
8. Evgeny Novikov: +3.4s
9. Mads Ostberg: +4.1s
10. Romain Dumas: +5.9s
11. Tomas Kostka: +6.5s
12. Martin Prokop: +7.1s