Sordo leads after Latvala crashes

Dani Sordo has taken a surprise early lead in the Rally of Portugal after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed out on the fourth stage

Sordo leads after Latvala crashes

Latvala had dominated the first two stages of the day and was leading by 10 seconds when he rolled his Ford on the Malhao test. Initial reports from the team suggest that the Finn and co-driver Miikka Antilla are not hurt, despite the car going a long way off the road.

The accident is a huge blow to Latvala, who had been under huge pressure to start delivering consistent finishes following early errors in two of the three rallies held so far this season.

Sordo therefore picked up the lead, but he is only 3.2s ahead of Marcus Gronholm. The former world champion has produced a superb performance for Prodrive Subaru in his first World Rally Championship appearance since he retired from the sport at the end of 2007.

Gronholm felt he might have been ahead after SS4 had he not made a poor start to the stage having initially been told that it would be cancelled following Latvala's accident. He was then taken by surprise when he was given the green light to start.

The Finn said there would be much more to come from him once he had acclimatised to the car and his WRC return.

"In all these stages I am still getting used to competing again and listening to the notes," said Gronholm, "and I'm still a little bit afraid with the car."

Sordo said he had thoroughly enjoyed the first three stages this morning and was revelling in the Citroen C4's handling.

"I'm happy with the stages, I like them and they're very difficult, but with the performance of the car they're very easy to drive," he said.

Mikko Hirvonen is third in the remaining works Ford, just 6.4s behind Sordo, while Sebastien Loeb has recovered to fourth after his SS2 error. The Citroen driver is still 22.7s adrift of his rally-leading team-mate Sordo.

Petter Solberg is fifth, his outdated Citroen Xsara struggling to keep up in the faster sections of the stages. He is 10s clear of Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson, with Citroen Junior duo Evgeny Novikov and Sebastien Ogier completing the current top eight.

After winning last night's superspecial and leading a WRC event for the first time, Henning Solberg has fallen to ninth in the second Stobart Ford due to brake problems. Mads Ostberg has had similar issues in his Adapta Subaru and is nearly two minutes off the pace in 10th.

Leading positions after SS4:

Pos Driver Car Time 1. Dani Sordo Citroen 43m14.6s 2. Marcus Gronholm Subaru + 3.2s 3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 6.4s 4. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 22.7s 5. Petter Solberg Citroen + 38.4s 6. Matthew Wilson Ford + 48.9s 7. Evgeny Novikov Citroen + 50.1s 8. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 56.1s 9. Henning Solberg Ford +1m03.6s 10. Mads Ostberg Subaru +1m57.4s 
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