Colin McRae made maximum use of his start position for the opening day of Rally Australia 2005 to complete the first leg in 3rd place.

Colin's Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team partner Armin Schwarz finished 11th as he contests the final rally of his career.

The roads of Western Australia offer a unique challenge to drivers. The 'ball-bearing' surface gives a huge advantage to drivers running later on the road and Colin's 14th start slot was ideal to benefit from the 'cleaning' process.

After a cautious start to today's first forest stage while he reacquainted himself with the Fabia WRC 05, Colin was second quickest on the next behind Chris Atkinson (and equal with Sebastien Loeb) to move into sixth place. He continued to set top 10 times and fourth place on SS7 took the Scot into third overall. When Loeb crashed out of the event on SS9, Colin moved up to second ahead of the superspecials that concluded the opening leg but in a close battle with Francois Duval.

Armin survived a scare during yesterday's shakedown when he badly damaged the right rear of the Fabia WRC 05 against a tree stump. The mechanics did a superb job rebuilding the car to make it ready for last night's opening superspecial in the heart of the city.

Tomorrow's leg features seven more forest stages to the east of Perth before another visit to the superspecial at Gloucester Park. Tomorrow's leg is based in the forestry plantation of Bannister (formerly known as Bunnings) where the spectacular jumps and watersplashes are a familiar sight to fans of this event. The day totals 122.34kms.


Colin McRae: "Today has gone completely to plan. I drove a bit too slowly on the opening stage but since then I've been able to push. The road position has obviously helped but the car has been fine too. If we can do the same tomorrow then who knows what sort of result is possible?"

Armin Schwarz: "This is my final rally but I was so nervous before the start it might have been my first WRC event. The stages here are very tricky and it is so easy to make a mistake that I am not taking any risks and just trying to stay in the middle of the road."

Martin Muehlmeier (Head of Škoda Motorsport): "Colin has done exactly what we asked of him today which was to use his start position to full advantage and push hard. He now has another perfect start position for tomorrow when the order is reversed and I hope he can maintain this result."