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Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville started the 2018 World Rally Championship with the fastest time in shakedown ahead of the Monte Carlo Rally.
The Belgian won Wednesday afternoon’s shakedown stage with a fastest time of 2m00.2s, edging his fellow i20 WRC driver Dani Sordo by a tenth of a second.
Neuville, who won the final round of the 2017 season in Australia and was runner-up overall last year, was pleased with his pace on the all-dry two-mile asphalt test just outside Gap.
“Shakedown went well,” said Neuville.
“The set-up is good, I’m very confident we have a good setting from a good test and, to be honest, the car is pretty similar to last year, so yes I’m feeling pretty confident.”
Toyota new boy Ott Tanak was third quickest in the Yaris WRC, four-tenths of a second down on Sordo.
“I am struggling to complain with the car from shakedown, I felt really good with it,” said the Estonian.
“It’s nice to drive, but I still have a lot to learn.”
Briton Kris Meeke was fourth for Citroen, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai) and the second Yaris of Jari-Matti Latvala.
Defending world champion and local hero Sebastien Ogier was seventh quickest, immediately ahead of his M-Sport Ford team-mate Elfyn Evans.
The British team’s third driver Bryan Bouffier was forced to change co-driver following a crash during a recce ahead of the stage.
Co-driver Jerome Degout aggravated a neck injury in the incident, which ruled him out of the rally. Xavier Panseri has been drafted in as a replacement.