WRC Italy: Mikko Hirvonen takes early lead after superspecial

Mikko Hirvonen holds the Rally Italy lead after the very short Cagliari superspecial on Thursday evening

WRC Italy: Mikko Hirvonen takes early lead after superspecial

The barrier-lined asphalt stage, less than a mile in length, will have little in common with the rough gravel of the main event, which commences on Friday morning.

M-Sport Ford driver Hirvonen's time of 1m19.1s put him two tenths of a second ahead of championship leader Sebastien Ogier's Volkswagen and Thierry Neuville's Hyundai, which are tied for second.

Juho Hanninen made it two Hyundais in the top four, while Ogier's team-mate and title rival Jari-Matti Latvala edged out Elfyn Evans, Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen for fifth.

Meeke ended the stage with smoke coming from his Citroen and fluid leaking, having damaged the car on a violent landing from a jump. It will be repaired ready for the start of SS2 on Friday.

Robert Kubica had a less spectacular incident when he ran slightly wide out of a hairpin, gently rearranging the temporary barriers as he regained the course, leaving him outside the top 10.

Leading positions after SS1: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford 1m19.1s 2. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +0.2s 3. Sebastien Ogier VW +0.2s 4. Juho Hanninen Hyundai +1.2s 5. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +1.7s 6. Kris Meeke Citroen +1.7s 7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +1.8s 8. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +1.8s 9. Henning Solberg M-Sport Ford +2.1s 10. Mads Ostberg Citroen +2.6s 

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WRC Italy: Robert Kubica tops shakedown in Sardinia

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