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Latvala moves ahead in Australia

Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford, Rally Australia 2009Jari-Matti Latvala has taken a narrow early lead in the Rally Australia, but Sebastien Ogier remains right on his tail.

Citroen Junior driver Ogier had dominated Thursday night's superspecials in Murwillumbah, and maintained his advantage through the first stage of Friday morning.

Although Latvala inched ahead on SS4, Ogier continued to match his times and is only 1.2 seconds behind the factory Ford after five stages.

"So far everything is perfect," said Ogier. "This last stage was very good. The car and the set-up is perfect, we have to continue like this."

Latvala admitted that it had been a mixed morning and that he could have gone faster.

"We started really well. The second stage was not perfect - I hit some hole or something near the start of the stage and the steering was pulling to the left," he said. "But this last stage was okay so maybe it righted itself."

Title rivals Sebastien Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen are third and fourth at present. Hirvonen (Ford) took the position from Loeb (Citroen) on SS3, but relinquished it again on the next stage as the Frenchman picked up speed after a hesitant run through SS4. Although running first on the road has hampered Hirvonen, who reported wheelspin even on straight sections, the layer of loose gravel on the top of the stage surfaces is so thick that even drivers much further down the order are struggling for grip.

Dani Sordo runs a close fifth for Citroen, while Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg was unable to maintain the form that saw him in the top three on the superspecials and has drifted back to sixth place.

Leading positions after SS5:

Pos  Driver              Car      Time/Gap
 1.  Jari-Matti Latvala  Ford     22m17.4s
 2.  Sebastien Ogier     Citroen  +   1.2s
 3.  Sebastien Loeb      Citroen  +   4.2s
 4.  Mikko Hirvonen      Ford     +   4.8s
 5.  Dani Sordo          Citroen  +   5.0s
 6.  Henning Solberg     Ford     +  25.3s
 7.  Matthew Wilson      Ford     +  39.2s
 8.  Federico Villagra   Ford     +  56.7s
 9.  Conrad Rautenbach   Citroen  +1m11.1s
10.  Khalid Al Qassimi   Ford     +1m12.5s

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