Dani Sordo showed why the MINI John Cooper Works WRC is more than a match for any World Rally Car and why he is one of the best drivers in the world, by setting two fastest times in three stages this afternoon.
It could have been more, but a fuel injector fault, which developed on the first stage of the day, meant the car ran on three cylinders for the morning loop.
The car then ran faultlessly during the afternoon and despite running in 22nd place, on increasingly dirty roads, set two first and a third fastest stage time.
Jarkko Nikara competing on tarmac for the first time in a World Rally Car, also started the day on soft Michelin tyres like Sordo and in the damp conditions set competitive stage times comparable to far more experienced tarmac drivers.
In the afternoon on stage 11 he clipped a wall damaging his rear suspension but was able to make road side repairs ready for the final stage of the day. A spin on a hairpin on the final stage lost him around 30 seconds but he still finished the day in 9th position.
Dave Wilcock, Prodrive WRC Team principal said: "We have gone through the whole range of emotions today.
First we were on a high when it looked as though Dani would be second quickest on the opening stage, followed by the low of hearing the car firing on three cylinders and being unable to do anything about it until service.
The guys here then did an incredible job to firstly narrow the fault down to the injector and then change them all within an hour. It would probably have been quicker to change the engine."
"Dani was then really fired up and focussed and blitzed the field on the next two stages, while they were all pushing as hard as they could. I am sure that if he hadn't been running in 22nd position on a dirty road, he would have won the final stage too."
Wilcock added: "Jarkko drove particularly well this morning. These are tricky tarmac stages and to do the times he is on his debut is a real credit to him.
He's currently lying 9th and I am sure he can take 8th tomorrow. In a world class field on your debut, that is a great achievement."
Dani Sordo said: "We had a small problem with car, but after seeing the mechanics working really really hard to repair the car for me, I was really motivated to drive fast and show what the MINI can do.
There is still more to come from the engine and I know the guys are working on this now in Banbury. Tomorrow I will push again and like everyone, I will be looking to win the powerstage."
Jarkko Nakara said: "In the morning there were no problems and I tried to step up my speed, but this afternoon was little more difficult. We went a little wide and I touched a barrier damaging the car, which made it difficult for the rest of the stage.
As we had to repair the car on the road section, we didn't get all the gravel notes so it made the next stage very tricky as it was really muddy.
I made a mistake in a slow left corner and went a bit off the road. Tomorrow, hopefully there is not so much mud and we can try and get a good rhythm and we can aim to gain another position."
Prodrive WRC Team