Wales Rally GB, the final round of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship, started this evening and, once again, Sébastien Ogier heads the leaderboard after the opening three stages. Thierry Neuville is just 3.2 seconds adrift in second and Jari-Matti Latvala holds third a further two seconds behind.
The event got underway earlier today in the coastal town of Conwy and crews were then immediately faced with three stages, all run in the dark Welsh forests. Despite mild weather earlier in the week, gusting winds and rain marked the day and conditions were treacherous as the contenders faced the opening 23.75 kilometres of stages.
Ogier set the pace immediately, the Frenchman having set the quickest time in Qualifying this morning and electing to run second on the road. He was fastest in the opening two stages and second in the final stage to inch out a slim advantage at this early stage in the event. Neuville claimed victory in the third stage to move into second position, despite clipping a big stone in the second stage that launched the car into the air. Like everyone, Latvala found the grip ever-changing and slipped to third this evening.
Behind the leading trio Mikko Hirvonen holds fourth with a useful 8.5 seconds in hand to Mads Østberg, the Norwegian struggling with a gear-shift problem. Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth, just ahead of Robert Kubica. The Pole is making his debut in a world rally car in Wales and setting an impressive pace with such little experience in this more powerful machinery. Evgeny Novikov, local hero Elfyn Evans, and Martin Prokop round off the top 10.