He was quickest through the wet and muddy 4.25km speed test from Villa Carlos Paz to Cabalango in his Toyota Yaris. Thierry Neuville and Kris Meeke were tied for second, 0.7sec behind the Estonian.

Heavy rain over recent days means competitors are prepared for a real mud-fest. River crossings are full of water and Tänak is under no illusions how tough this fifth round of the FIA World Rally Championship will be.

“The first run was not so bad, still quite OK grip and just some muddy places. But afterwards the road was destroyed, so we just had to make it through the three runs and not damage our car,” he explained.

“We don’t expect anything less tomorrow. We have to understand where are the places which can catch us out. Friday is looking really tough as the mix of sand, mud and a lot of watersplashes at high speed means it can be incredibly difficult.”

The top four drivers clocked their fastest times in the first of three runs. As conditions became more slippery, times fell away and Teemu Suninen was the only one to improve in his third pass.

Sébastien Ogier finished fourth in a Citroën C3, 0.5sec behind Neuville’s Hyundai i20 and Meeke’s Yaris. Suninen’s Fiesta and Dani Sordo’s i20 completed the top six.

The leading times were:

1.Ott TänakToyota Yaris2min 34.9sec
2=Thierry NeuvilleHyundai i20+0.7sec
2=Kris MeekeToyota Yaris+0.7sec
4.Sébastien OgierCitroën C3+1.2sec
5.Teemu SuninenFord Fiesta+1.5sec
6.Dani SordoHyundai i20+2.4sec
7.Esapekka LappiCitroën C3+2.8sec
8=Jari-Matti LatvalaToyota Yaris+3.4sec
8=Andreas MikkelsenHyundai i20+3.4sec
10.Elfyn EvansFord Fiesta+3.6sec

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