Pat Richard and Alan Ockwell hold a significant lead at the end of the first day of the Pacific Forest Rally in Merritt, BC with a gap of 38 seconds over Leo Urlichich and Martin Brady in second place and another nine seconds back to Antoine L'Estage and Nathalie Richard in third.
Richard was able to take advantage of road position, running first without having to contend with dust that might the night stages difficult for other drivers. Alan Ockwell has stepped back in as co-driver and the two are finding their championship winning pace.
"There's been no drama," said Richard at the end of the day. "We've been doing our thing and just concentrating on working together again."
Urlichich and Brady were slowed as they suffered two punctures though Urlichich was unsure what caused the problem.
"No more flats, so that's good," said Leo. "We've been trying to adjust our setup. I think it's getting closer to what we want."
L'Estage and Nathalie Richard are content with their position. A tenth place finish here is all that is required for the pair to clinch the 2011 Canadian Rally Championship.
"Dust was insane tonight. Even with a three minute window, it wasn't enough," said L'Estage. "Still we are where we need to be. I don't need to be a hero here."
In two wheel drive, Jan and Jody Zedril have opened up a strong lead over their rivals.
"The dust was really bad for us on Princeton tonight. With the extra minute, we beat our first time by 45 seconds," said Jody.
Zebe Szewczyk and Shabir Haji are in second place with Eric Grochowski and Leanne Junnila not far behind.
"Today was all hillclimbs and hairpins, tomorrow's stages are momentum stages, which should be good for us," said Grochowski.
The second day of the Pacific Forest Rally starts south of Merritt, with 125kms of competitive stages before the finish of the rally.