On the round closest to home, the Ulsterman guided his Yaris through the slippery 4.90km Gwydir gravel road test with the best time, more than a second clear of a gaggle of five drivers covered by three-tenths.

Meeke and home hero Elfyn Evans, returning after a three-rally absence with a back injury, tied for fastest time through the first pass on the muddy tracks. Meeke set the benchmark time on his second of three runs as grip improved slightly and was never headed.

Hyundai hero Craig Breen was ninth fastest, despite spinning and stalling his i20 at a tight hairpin early in his first pass.

The leading times were:

PositionDriverCarTime
1.Kris MEEKE Yaris2min 54.1sec
=2.Esapekka LAPPI+1.1sec
=2.Elfyn EVANSFord Fiesta+1.1sec
=2.+1.1sec
5.Ford Fiesta+1.2sec
6.Thierry NEUVILLEHyundai i20+1.4sec
7.Jari-Matti LATVALAToyota Yaris+1.9sec
8.Ott TANAKToyota Yaris+2.3sec
9.Craig BREENHyundai i20+2.7sec
10.Andreas MIKKELSENHyundai i20+3.1sec

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