Juho Hanninen leads the Rally Azores after the first three stages – but just 0.2sec covers the top three drivers.
Local driver Bruno Magalhaes led his first home event of the year for Peugeot Portugal for the first two stages, initially by just 0.3sec over Andreas Mikkelsen's Ford, then by only 0.1sec over SS2 winner Hanninen. It was Mikkelsen who then won the day-closing Grupo Marques superspecial, which put him on equal second with Magalhaes, both of them 0.2sec behind Hanninen's Skoda overall.
Jan Kopecky is fourth in the second works Skoda, struggling slightly with a clutch problem but still within 5.5sec of the lead.
Road position has been a major factor today, with reigning champion Kris Meeke running first as the leg one order was set by numerical order on the entry list. The Peugeot UK driver described stage one as "unbelievably slippery" and found himself in fifth, which would have potentially put him first on the road for all nine of Friday's stages as tomorrow's order starts with the top five reversed.
Meeke therefore slowed down on SS2 to drop to sixth behind Portuguese championship leader Bernardo Sousa, to the frustration of the Ford driver, who will now get the worst of the stage conditions tomorrow.