Ogier holds narrow Portugal lead
|By Matt Beer||Friday, March 25th 2011, 11:36 GMT|
Sebastien Ogier leads a tightly-packed battle for victory in Portugal, with the top four within six seconds after four stages.
Citroen driver Ogier had made a quiet start and was only fourth going into SS4 Felizes. But he blitzed the 21-kilometre test to jump straight into the rally lead.
"The rally is very long, and this is just the first day. We started quite slowly this morning, it was a bit difficult to wake up..." Ogier joked. "But at the moment everything is perfect."
He leads a Citroen one-two, 2.8 seconds ahead of team-mate Sebastien Loeb, with the Fords of Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala 3.3s and 6.0s behind Ogier respectively.
Hirvonen had led through SS2 and SS3 despite running first on the road, and it was only on Felizes that the dusty surface actually began to clear for the cars behind.
While that means Citroen cannot rely on Hirvonen struggling with road position today, Loeb was pleased that the rally looks like being a straight fight.
"There's not as much road cleaning as usual, but I prefer that," said the champion. "It's much more exciting if you don't have to take any strategy."
Petter Solberg was right with the leaders until he had on puncture on SS3 Ourique. Though that cost him a minute, he immediately started to push to catch up and was second quickest to Ogier on Felizes.
After his incident on last night's superspecial, Mads Ostberg's rally got even worse when the gearbox on his Stobart Ford failed on today's opening Santa Clara stage, forcing him to retire.
Matthew Wilson has had a strong start to the event in sixth for Stobart, ahead of his team-mate Henning Solberg, who has been slowed by a misfire.
Eighth-placed Kimi Raikkonen (Ice 1 Citroen) is only just in front of Armindo Araujo, who is flying in the new S2000 Mini and leads several World Rally Cars.
"I'm happy. I'm not pushing at all - I'm trying to win confidence with the car," said Araujo.
Leading positions after SS4: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen 43m22.2s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 2.8s 3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 3.3s 4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 6.0s 5. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 55.8s 6. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 1m14.2s 7. Henning Solberg Stobart Ford + 1m19.2s 8. Kimi Raikkonen Ice 1 Citroen + 1m54.2s 9. Armindo Araujo Italia Mini + 1m54.9s 10. Bernardo Sousa Quinta Ford + 2m12.6s