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Kronos Citroen team leader, Sebastien Loeb was quickest in the shakedown for the Rally Cyprus on Thursday, the twelfth round in the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship.

Loeb completed the 6 kilometre shakedown test, at the foot of the Stavrovouni Monastery in 5 minutes 45 seconds, nearly 1.3 seconds up Marcus Gronholm, who was 'best of the rest' for Ford: "Excellent shakedown," said Loeb. "The Xsara is perfect in behaviour and apparently very effective. I hope that we will validate that tomorrow."

Gronholm's team-mate, Mikko Hirvonen was third, while OMV Peugeot's Manfred Stohl and Kronos Citroen number two driver, Dani Sordo rounded out the top five, the latter 9.5 seconds off his team-mate, Loeb.

Citroen privateer, Toni Gardemeister was sixth quickest in his Astra-run Xsara, his best time - a 5m 54.7s, while Petter Solberg was only seventh for Subaru.

Furtherdown the leaderboard, Kronos third driver, Xavier Pons and OMV Peugeot's Henning Solberg were eighth and ninth respectively, split by just over a second.

Subaru's number two driver, Chris Atkinson meanwhile completed the top ten, nearly 6 seconds up on Red Bull Skoda's Harri Rovanpera, while Matthew Wilson was twelfth, despite hitting a rock on his second run through, which broke a steering arm on his Stobart VK Focus.

"I gained some valuable experience out there today," said Wilson Jr. "At first I was fighting the car but by the end I was more relaxed and let it bounce around a bit more. We made a few changes; I'm now sitting higher to get a better view of the road ahead. By the final run it was all working well and my times were considerably quicker than when we started."

The Cyprus Rally now begins proper on Friday, with SS1 getting underway at 09.40 hours local time.


Leading shakedown times:

1. Sebastien Loeb Kronos Citroen Xsara WRC 06 5mins 45.0secs M1

2. Marcus Gronholm BP Ford Focus RS WRC 06 5mins 46.3secs M1

3. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Focus RS WRC 06 5mins 53.7secs M1

4. Manfred Stohl OMV Peugeot Norway 307 WRC 5mins 54.0secs M2

5. Daniel Sordo Kronos Citroen Xsara WRC 06 5mins 54.5secs M1

6. Ton Gardemeister Astra Citroen Xsara WRC 5mins 54.7secs

7. Petter Solberg Subaru WRT Impreza WRC 2006 5mins 55.2secs M1

8. Xavier Pons Kronos Citroen Xsara WRC 06 5mins 56.5secs

9. Henning Solberg OMV Peugeot Norway 307 WRC 5mins 57.6secs M2

10. Chris Atkinson Subaru WRT Impreza WRC 2006 5mins 58.2secs M1

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