DMACK World Rally Team driver Ott Tänak was the surprise pace setter at the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB shakedown in Clocaenog Forest.
The Estonian posted the fastest time as he attacked the 3.32km test for the first time on Thursday morning. He emerged just under a second quicker than Citroën’s Kris Meeke, while Craig Breen was third fastest, only a tenth of a second behind his team-mate.
“Everything was working well and I’m very happy with the tyres and the car. I’m quite enjoying it at the moment," Tänak said. “I like the gravel and the mud makes it a bit more tricky. But I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of the stages in Wales.”
The Ford Fiesta RS WRC driver described the conditions on the shakedown stage as being largely damp and greasy, but he predicted an exciting event if the weather remains dry and the stage conditions continue to improve.
“I think it will be an interesting weekend with the drying conditions,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what we can do here. I’m waiting to see what the feeling is like on Friday before I see what’s possible.”
Newly-crowned world champion Sébastien Ogier was fourth fastest in his Volkswagen Polo R, while Hayden Paddon showed a good turn of speed as he returned to his favoured loose surface to set the fifth fastest time.
Andreas Mikkelsen drew first blood in the battle for second place in the final WRC standings as he went sixth quickest. Thierry Neuville, his closest rival in the championship, was only 10th fastest, almost a second slower than his Norwegian rival.
The top-ten shakedown stage times were:
|1.||Ott Tänak||Ford Fiesta RS||1min 59.7sec|
|2.||Kris Meeke||Citroën DS 3||2min 00.6sec|
|3.||Craig Breen||Citroën DS 3||2min 00.7sec|
|4.||Sébastien Ogier||Volkswagen Polo R||2min 00.8sec|
|5.||Hayden Paddon||Hyundai i20||2min 01.0sec|
|6.||Andreas Mikkelsen||Volkswagen Polo R||2min 01.2sec|
|7.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen Polo R||2min 01.6sec|
|8=||Valeriy Gorban||Mini John Cooper||2min 01.8sec|
|8=||Dani Sordo||Hyundai i20||2min 01.8sec|
|10.||Thierry Neuville||Hyundai i20||2min 02.1sec|