Sebastien Ogier and Dani Sordo are battling for the lead in the early stages of the Rally of Portugal, with Citroen Junior driver Ogier moving ahead of factory number two Sordo after SS4.
Sordo had won the opening stage of the morning to take the initial lead, before Ogier struck back by taking the next two stage wins. The second of those moved him in a 1.8-second lead over Sordo heading for the lunchtime service. But despite losing first place to his semi-works rival, Sordo was still very upbeat at the end of SS4.
"I was a little bit careful with the tires. It was difficult to know if it was good, if it was not good and if you could push harder," Sordo explained. "I drove really fast, but the time from Ogier was really, really good. Maybe I lost a little bit of time, but I am happier than in New Zealand."
The title contenders have lost time on the dusty surface as they take to the stages first. Sebastien Loeb felt the conditions were increasingly bad as the loop went on, and is back in fifth, 23sec behind Ogier. Mikko Hirvonen is third for Ford, moving up into that position when Petter Solberg had a brief trip off the road on SS4 and lost 10sec. Just over 3sec currently cover Hirvonen, Solberg and Loeb.
Back at the scene of his horrendous 2009 crash, Jari-Matti Latvala admitted he had a "very cautious morning" in the second Ford and is half a minute off the pace in sixth.
After initially losing time with steering problems, Henning Solberg has moved back past his Stobart Ford teammate Matthew Wilson and Adapta Subaru's Mads Ostberg to hold seventh. Kimi Raikkonen completes the top 10 for Citroen Junior.
Superspecial star Federico Villagra (Munchi's Ford) fell back to 11th when the full-length stages began, while Monster Ford's Ken Block had a troubled start to his rally, making a mistake on SS2 and then going off the road on SS4. Following crews reported that Block's car is unable to get back on, but the crew are unhurt.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 41m30.2s
2. Dani Sordo Citroen + 1.8s
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 19.9s
4. Petter Solberg Citroen + 20.7s
5. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 23.0s
6. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 35.1s
7. Henning Solberg Ford + 46.1s
8. Matthew Wilson Ford + 52.3s
9. Mads Ostberg Subaru + 1m05.3s
10. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen + 1m48.5s