LLandudno - Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen shared the opening day's honours in the Wales Rally GB here on Thursday, with the world rally title protagonists winning one stage apiece.
Citroen's French ace Loeb, bidding for an unprecedented eighth successive championship, claimed the second stage with his Finnish arch rival's Ford Fiesta taking the day's third and final special.
Loeb, who has an eight-point advantage in the drivers' standings going into this 13th and final title-decider, holds a 0.7sec edge on Hirvonen, with Hirvonen's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, winner of the first stage, 3.1sec back in third.
The first two stages were run over the Great Orme all-asphalt toll road in North Wales, not used in the event since 1981, with Latvala's third special win coming in the Clocaenog Forest, appearing for the first time on the rally's itinerary since 1996.
Ford driver Hirvonen has vowed to go all out for victory here this weekend as he attmepts to muscle in on Loeb's title monopoly.
But if Hirvonen does emerge as the winner on Sunday with Loeb second then it is Loeb who will take the drivers' crown by a solitary point.
However, with bonus points up for grabs on the Power Stage, the championship could be decided by the outcome of the rally’s final test on Sunday afternoon.