Sebastien Loeb holds narrow lead on Acropolis Rally after stage four
|Friday, May 25th 2012, 08:19 GMT|
Citroen's Sebastien Loeb holds a narrow lead over the works Fords after stage four of a very competitive Acropolis Rally.
Returning Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala, back after missing Argentina with a broken collarbone, had been the initial Friday morning pacesetter, taking narrow stage wins on Aghia Marina and Thiva to inch into a 3.3-second lead over Loeb.
The second factory Ford of Petter Solberg was struggling at this stage - a puzzling handling issue and the time lost with Thursday afternoon's tyre choice misjudgement leaving him back in fourth.
But muddy conditions on SS4, Elikonas, had a major effect on the lead battle. Latvala was one of several drivers to overshoot a particularly slippery junction, which dropped him to second, 1.2s behind Loeb - despite the champion being very unhappy with his performance on the stage.
The big winner was Solberg, though. A full 9.7s faster than his rivals as he found his car well suited to the mud, the Norwegian vaulted to a close third, just 4.5s behind Loeb.
Mikko Hirvonen had a minor excursion at the same place as Latvala and is fourth in the second Citroen, 11s off the lead.
Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford) is presently 'best of the rest' in fifth, eight seconds clear of Mads Ostberg, whose Adapta Ford lost a little time with a puncture. Novikov's team-mate Ott Tanak and Citroen Junior's Thierry Neuville both made minor errors and are some way back in seventh and eighth.
Leading positions after SS4: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen 57m41.9s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford + 1.2s 3. Petter Solberg Ford + 4.5s 4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 11.0s 5. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Ford + 43.2s 6. Mads Ostberg Adapta Ford + 51.6s 7. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford + 1m31.4s 8. Thierry Neuville Citroen Junior + 1m45.3s 9. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 2m04.9s 10. Sebastien Ogier VW Skoda + 2m23.3s