Juho Hanninen leads Rally Azores by 4.3 seconds over local favourite Bruno Magalhaes after the three stages that opened the event this evening.
Skoda UK's Andreas Mikkelsen had set the early pace, before a power steering failure near the end of of SS2, let factory Skoda driver and reigning Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Hanninen move ahead.
The Finn then extended that advantage on the leg-closing Grupo Marques superspecial, as Mikkelsen slipped to third behind Magalhaes (Peugeot Portugal).
Jan Kopecky (Skoda) and Patrik Sandell (Skoda Sweden) are fourth and fifth.
Monte Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier lost time running first on the road this evening and is 36.3s off the road in his ROMO Peugeot.
Peugeot UK's Guy Wilks dropped time on SS2 to get a better Friday road position and currently sits seventh, 29.3s behind Hanninen.
Leading positions after SS3: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Juho Hanninen Skoda 17m07.4s 2. Bruno Magalhaes Peugeot Portugal + 4.3s 3. Andreas Mikkelsen Skoda UK + 5.7s 4. Jan Kopecky Skoda + 10.6s 5. Patrik Sandell Skoda Sweden + 20.5s 6. Ricardo Moura Mitsubishi (private) + 28.1s 7. Guy Wilks Peugeot UK (Kronos) + 29.3s 8. Bryan Bouffier ROMO Peugeot + 36.3s 9. Vitor Lopes Subaru (private) + 47.0s 10. Toshi Arai Arai Subaru + 56.2s