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Acropolis Rally: Novikov grabs shock lead as frontrunners hit trouble

Evgeny Novikov WRC Acropolis Rally Evgeny Novikov emerged as a shock Acropolis Rally leader as Sebastien Ogier, Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg all hit trouble on the opening stage.

The 47-kilometre Kineta-Pissia stage claimed high-profile victims from the outset, including World Rally Championship points leader Ogier.

The Frenchman stopped with what Volkswagen would only describe as a 'mechanical problem'.

Hirvonen's Citroen made it to the finish despite a steering issue that cost him nearly six minutes, while Mads Ostberg reported that his M-Sport Ford's "wheel fell off" as he dropped three minutes.

Those that did make it through unscathed found themselves a long way off M-Sport driver Novikov's pace.

Second-placed Dani Sordo's Citroen is 20.6 seconds down on the Russian, but 15.7s ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, who is now VW's main hope.

The Finn's team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen is fifth, behind Thierry Neuville.

Robert Kubica leads WRC2 despite some scares in dust on the stage, and holds ninth overall.

Leg one of the shortened rally comprises just two stages, with the field now heading to service before tackling SS2 in darkness.

Leading positions after SS1:

Pos  Driver              Team/Car        Time/Gap
 1.  Evgeny Novikov      M-Sport Ford    32m58.6s
 2.  Dani Sordo          Citroen          + 20.6s
 3.  Jari-Matti Latvala  VW               + 36.3s
 4.  Thierry Neuville    M-Sport Ford     + 38.3s
 5.  Andreas Mikkelsen   VW               + 54.4s
 6.  Nasser Al-Attiyah   M-Sport Ford     + 57.5s
 7.  Martin Prokop       Czech Ford     + 1m34.3s
 8.  Khalid Al-Qassimi   Citroen        + 2m13.3s
 9.  Robert Kubica       PH Citroen    + 2m51.6s*
10.  Yuriy Protasov      Mm Ford       + 3m12.1s*

* WRC2
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