Jari-Matti Latvala holds a narrow lead at the end of the opening evening of the Rally of Portugal, while Sebastien Loeb is already out of the event.
Championship leader Loeb was third after the first two stages, but crashed heavily on SS3 when he misunderstood a pace note, damaging his Citroen's rollcage and forcing him to retire from the whole event.
Yesterday, Ford had elected to choose lowly road positions while the Citroens decided to open the road, as the latter reckoned dust would cause visibility issues on the night stages for those running down the order, whereas Ford thought the surface would have cleaned thoroughly by the time its works cars came through if it went late in the list.
In the event, changing weather meant there was little to choose between the two strategies. Ford had better grip on the first two stages of the night, but struggled in the slippery conditions of SS4 after a heavy rain shower hit. But ultimately it was Ford that led the event as the day closed, with Latvala 2.6 seconds ahead of teammate Petter Solberg, and Citroen's remaining contender Mikko Hirvonen just 5s off the top spot in third.
"I think overall it's been a good evening. It's not been an easy evening, but I think our positions have paid off," said Latvala.
M-Sport Ford's Ott Tanak is still within 15sec of the lead in fourth, having been quick all night and beaten all the works cars to a stage win on SSS4. Fellow rising star Thierry Neuville is next up in fifth for Citroen Junior, followed by Mads Ostberg, whose Adapta Ford was delayed by an SS3 puncture.
It has been a bad night for Mini. Prodrive's Dani Sordo stopped with electrical problems before SS3, and local favorite Armindo Araujo spent five minutes off the road in his Motorsport Italia car on SS2, leaving only Sordo's teammate Patrik Sandell in contention for the marque. Sandell finished the leg in 11th.
Leading positions after SS4:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 25m04.6s
2. Petter Solberg Ford + 2.6s
3. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 5.0s
4. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford + 15.7s
5. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 34.0s
6. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 53.3s
7. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 1m02.9s
8. Jari Ketomaa Autotek Ford + 1m15.0s
9. Hayden Paddon ASM Skoda + 1m39.6s
10. Dennis Kuipers M-Sport Ford + 1m47.1s