Rallye Deutschland is go!

The first ever Rallye Deutschland kicked off with a 12.42km blast through the Mosel vineyards and although the scenery was unfamiliar the result was not

Rallye Deutschland is go!

Peugeots team-mates Marcus Gronholm and Richard Burns shared fastest time honours, both completing the Dhrontal stage in 8m27.9s.

Sebastien Loeb, making his final appearance of the year for Citroen showed that the silver 206s will not have things their own way and was third quickest, albeit 4.6s back.

Ford team-mates Carlos Sainz and Colin McRae were next up, 5.1 and 6.2s down respectively. Petter Solberg carried over his strong form from Finland with the sixth quickest time.

The second Xsara of Philippe Bugalski was seventh fastest, but it was surprising to see the Frenchman lose almost 16 seconds over a comparatively short distance. He faired better than WRC returnee Jesus Puras, however. The Spaniard was over 30 seconds down on the opening stage and faces a tough fight to haul the Xsara into the points.

Another driver with a battle on his hands is four-times world champion Tommi Makinen. The Subaru star had the handbrake of his Impreza break off in his hand and on a stage full of fast straights followed by tight corners it was very costly and the Finn lost 40 seconds to Burns and Gronholm. The team is confident that Makinen's temporary repairs will hold and he's sure to be on the charge for the rest of the leg.

Local hero Armin Schwarz gave the impressive crowd something to cheer with the ninth fastest time. In the battle of the revised cars Skoda took a narrow lead with Kenneth Eriksson in the revamped Octavia setting a time two seconds quicker than Francois Delecour in the new Mitsubishi Lancer.

It was a disastrous stage for the third works Subaru of Austrian Achin Mortl, who's making his works debut this weekend. The Austrian ended the stage with his Impreza's right rear wheel reduced to just its hub, over two minutes off the pace.

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