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Sebastien Loeb holds narrow lead on Acropolis Rally after stage four

Sebastien LoebCitroen'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
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