The Frenchman was one of several drivers to swipe a gatepost after 2km of his opening run through the 3.92km Olmedo dirt road speed test. The impact damaged his Citroën C3’s rear suspension, leaving the championship leader to limp through the rest of the test.

“We knew there was an extremely tricky corner through a gate,” Ogier told wrc.com. “It was very narrow and you had to make a hairpin into this gate, and obviously it wasn’t wide enough to go sideways with the car.

“I thought I did it very slowly but it wasn’t slowly enough with very little grip from being first on the road. I clipped the outside of the gate with my rear left corner and damaged the toe link. That was it for my start of the day.”

Ogier didn’t have the required spare parts in his C3 so Citroën Racing received approval to send mechanics to the stage end to make swift repairs.

He went back into the test and immediately set the benchmark time that remained unbeaten throughout the session, ending 0.9sec clear of title rival Ott Tänak’s Toyota Yaris. Thierry Neuville was third, setting a time a further 0.8sec slower in the last of his four runs.

Neuville, driving a Hyundai i20, and Elfyn Evans also clipped the gate, the Welshman doing his rivals a service by knocking the post out of the ground with his Ford Fiesta and removing the hazard.

Tänak spun and stalled his Yaris near the start of the first pass, while team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was quickly in the groove to set fastest time in the opening run before Ogier moved to the head of the times.

Teemu Suninen, partnered by Jarmo Lehtinen for the first time, Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen tied for fourth.

The leading times were:

PositionDriverCarTime
1.Sébastien OgierCitroën C33min 00.0sec
2.Ott TänakToyota Yaris+0.9sec
3.Thierry NeuvilleHyundai i20+1.7sec
4=Teemu SuninenFord Fiesta+2.7sec
4=Kris MeekeToyota Yaris+2.7sec
4=Andreas MikkelsenHyundai i20+2.7sec
7.Jari-Matti LatvalaToyota Yaris+2.9sec
8.Elfyn EvansFord Fiesta+3.0sec
9.Juho HänninenToyota Yaris+3.4sec
10.Esapekka LappiCitroën C3+4.8sec

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