Jari-Matti Latvala leads the Jordan Rally after the opening four stages, but is set to lose his advantage to Dani Sordo if an anticipated penalty is applied.
Ford driver Latvala and Solberg Citroen's Petter Solberg both expect to receive 10-second time penalties for starting SS3 a minute late. Both said that the itinerary timing on the road section to the stage had been inadequate and not made enough allowance for other cars on the roads.
"It was too tight," said Solberg. "With traffic, you can't do anything."
But with those penalties yet to be added to the official results, Latvala leads by 0.4sec over Sordo (Citroen) and 1.5sec over Solberg. The Finn admitted that news of the potential penalty had shaken him.
"It's not an ideal situation when you start very well and then you get a penalty," said Latvala. "But it's history now, we can't change it."
Latvala led through stages one and two, before briefly being usurped by Sordo, who then fell back to second by the end of SS4 as he struggled with an engine mapping or throttle issue that was pushing his car on in corners.
"Without the problem with the throttle, I'd be OK," said Sordo. "It's really, really slippery and difficult to drive. But at the moment it's going really well."
Sebastien Ogier is fourth for Citroen Junior, ahead of title rivals Sebastien Loeb (Citroen) and Mikko Hirvonen (Ford) in fifth and sixth. Both are being hampered by the dusty surface as they run first and second on the road, with Hirvonen further delayed by spinning once and stalling twice on SS1.
Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson hold seventh and eighth, while Kimi Raikkonen (Citroen Junior) is just outside the top 10, running with the S2000 class leaders.
PG Andersson was the star of the opening two stages, getting his S2000 Skoda up to ninth overall – within 9sec of Hirvonen – only to damage the car and retire on SS3. Fellow Skoda driver Nasser Al-Attiyah now leads the SWRC class, and is also ahead of the WRC tail-enders.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 42m25.6s
2. Dani Sordo Citroen + 0.4s
3. Petter Solberg Citroen + 1.5s
4. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 14.0s
5. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 21.1s
6. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 28.0s
7. Henning Solberg Ford + 41.6s
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 1m07.1s
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah Skoda + 1m26.1s
10. Federico Villagra Ford + 1m28.0s