WRC Rally Catalunya: Sebastien Ogier wins opening stage

Sebastien Ogier opened Rally Catalunya with the fastest time on Thursday evening's Barcelona street stage

WRC Rally Catalunya: Sebastien Ogier wins opening stage

The already-crowned world champion beat Thierry Neuville to the fastest time by 2.1 seconds around the two-mile asphalt course, which included a mandatory doughnut around a post.

The under-pressure Neuville - who will be demoted to Hyundai's second-string team for the season finale in Wales next month - had looked set to take a morale boosting stage win as his 3m39.9s stood as the benchmark for a long spell.

Though ultimately pipped by Ogier, Neuville still hung on to second ahead of the champion's Volkswagen team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke in the leading Citroen.

Robert Kubica again showed strong asphalt form to go fifth-quickest.

With Friday's opening leg taking place on gravel before the rally returns to asphalt at the weekend, several drivers tried to 'scrub' as much tread as possible from spare gravel tyres on the morning shakedown to give them a better chance on the superspecial, while others were happy to lose a few seconds in Barcelona to prioritise the full-length stages.

Among those ending the night out of position was Jari-Matti Latvala in seventh in the third VW, while Elfyn Evans - runner-up in Corsica three weeks ago - was only 16th-quickest, behind the top WRC2 cars.

WRC2 championship leader Nasser Al-Attiyah managed to get into the top 10 overall, taking an asphalt-spec damper for the stage - confident he can return to a full gravel set-up in the 15-minute service before Friday morning's opener.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS1:

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Follow Rally Catalunya as it happens with Autosport Race Centre Live from 9am UK time on Friday morning

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WRC Rally Catalunya: Ogier leads, Ostberg and Kubica find trouble

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