WRC Rally Australia: Citroen's Kris Meeke leads Hyundais

Kris Meeke's Citroen leads the Hyundais of Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon after the opening morning of Rally Australia, with World Rally Championship leader Sebastien Ogier back in sixth

WRC Rally Australia: Citroen's Kris Meeke leads Hyundais

Ogier was expecting to lose time on the first three stages, where his first-on-the-road status would be most costly on very dusty roads.

Sure enough the Volkswagen driver was back in eighth after the Northbank stage, but he regained ground on Newry Long, where road position was less critical.

Hyundai initially held a one-two, with Sordo making the most of being eighth in the start order to go fastest on all of the first three stages.

A downshift problem and a stall at a hairpin then hampered his pace on Newry Long, allowing stage winner Meeke to leap into first place, 3.3 seconds ahead of Sordo and 7s clear of third-placed Paddon.

Sordo and Paddon have swapped places in the Hyundai pecking order this weekend - with New Zealander Paddon scoring for the main Hyundai Motorsport squad on the closest thing he has to a home WRC rally, while Sordo is in the #20 entry for the second string N team.

The VWs loom in fourth, fifth and sixth places - Andreas Mikkelsen and Jari-Matti Latvala ahead of Ogier. Unless his team-mates outscore him by substantial margins, Ogier is set to clinch his third consecutive WRC title this weekend. He is still within 11.8s of the lead.

While Sordo and Paddon are fighting for the lead, their Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville's disappointing form continues.

Complaining of a lack of confidence in the car, the Belgian is down in eighth place, 20s off the front.

M-Sport had a tough start too. Ott Tanak was in the top three initially, but is now in seventh after stalling on SS4, where his team-mate Elfyn Evans damaged a tyre and lost a minute nursing a puncture to the finish.

Citroen's stand-in driver Stephane Lefebvre holds ninth place in the injured Mads Ostberg's regular car.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS4:

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