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Sébastien Ogier was comfortably fastest in Wednesday evening’s shakedown at Rallye Monte-Carlo as the new-era World Rally Cars broke cover for the first time on mountain roads around Gap.

The Frenchman, appearing in public for the first time in M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta, set the pace on his first run through the 3.35km test just outside the town.

He was 4.2sec quicker than Andreas Mikkelsen’s WRC 2 specification Skoda Fabia R5. Ott Tänak, M-Sport team-mate to Ogier, was a further 1.9sec behind.

Jari-Matti Latvala provided Toyota with a successful opening day back in the WRC by finishing fourth in his Yaris, 1.0sec behind Tänak. Hyundai team-mates Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo filled the top six in i20 Coupes.

Conditions were mainly dry, in contrast to the snow expected on the higher altitude special stages during Friday and Saturday’s second and third legs.

Most drivers opted to save their studded tyres for the rally, using either unstudded winter tyres or super soft rubber, which is unlikely to be needed during the rally itself. As a result, shakedown gave few clues as to the performance level of the various teams.

“We chose to protect our winter tyres for the rally,” said Citroën’s Kris Meeke, whose quickest time was 20sec slower than Ogier and slowest of all the 2017-specification cars.

“We went on a slick, which is completely the wrong choice, but we want to keep our tyres for the rally. Normally we have enough studs, but in shakedown here, if you use them and you get a puncture or you damage one, that’s one gone and that can put you at a disadvantage.”

The leading times were:

1.     Sébastien Ogier, Ford Fiesta, 2min 18.1sec
2.     Andreas Mikkelsen, Skoda Fabia R5, 2min 22.3sec
3.     Ott Tänak, Ford Fiesta, 2min 24.2sec
4.     Jari-Matti Latvala, Toyota Yaris, 2min 25.2sec
5.     Hayden Paddon, Hyundai i20 Coupe, 2min 25.8sec
6.     Dani Sordo, Hyundai i20 Coupe, 2min 26.0sec
7.     Juho Hänninen, Toyota Yaris, 2min 26.6sec
8.     Thierry Neuville, Hyundai i20 Coupe, 2min 26.9sec
9.     Eric Camilli, Ford Fiesta R5, 2min 29.4sec
10.     Jan Kopecky, Skoda Fabia R5, 2min 29.9sec

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