Dani Sordo has taken an early lead in his home rally in Spain, with his Citroen team-mate Sebastien Loeb a close second and Mikko Hirvonen losing touch in third.
Hirvonen (Ford) had sprung a surprise when he managed to split the Citroens on this morning's first stage, but as the loop progressed he struggled to match his rivals' pace. By the end of SS3, the championship leader was 19s away from the lead.
"It's getting worse," Hirvonen said. "I don't have a good feeling when the temperature is getting warmer. The car starts to understeer a lot and it's really bad. The more we drive, the more understeer we're getting, so that's not good."
Conversely, Sordo was increasingly happy as the morning went on and road conditions improved after a slightly damp start.
"It wasn't perfect, it was really difficult on the first stage this morning," said Sordo at the end of SS3. "Some parts were wet and difficult to drive, but it's better and better now - this stage was completely dry and normal."
Loeb, who starts the weekend five points behind Hirvonen in the championship, was not entirely content with his car's handling but completed the loop within 4.8s of his rally-leading team-mate.
Both works Fords have struggled this morning, with the unhappy Jari-Matti Latvala falling back to sixth and already a minute down on the leaders.
"It's not going so well," said Latvala. "The rear brakes are locking quite often in the turns, and that is confusing my driving quite a lot."
The Finn has dropped behind the Solberg and Junior Citroens of Petter Solberg and Sebastien Ogier. While Solberg has gained speed as he acclimatises to his new C4, Ogier has been troubled by brake problems all morning.
His team-mate Evgeny Novikov spun on the first stage and stalled on the third, but remains seventh ahead of the Stobart Fords.
Leading positions after SS3:
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Dani Sordo Citroen 35m33.0s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 4.8s 3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 19.1s 4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 37.9s 5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 59.2s 6. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1m00.0s 7. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 1m49.4s 8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 1m53.5s 9. Henning Solberg Ford + 2m09.7s 10. Federico Villagra Ford + 2m21.3s
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