Jari-Matti Latvala leads a four-way lead battle at the end of Day 1 of Rally de Portugal. The Ford driver has an 11.5 second lead over teammate Mikko Hirvonen, as Citroen drivers Sebastien Ogier and Sebastien Loeb dropped back on the final stage of the day to gain themselves a more favourable road position for Day 2.
Championship leader Hirvonen won the superspecial stage in Lisbon on Thursday afternoon, and then held onto his lead through the opening two stages of Friday, despite running first on the gravel stages.
Ogier, who won in Portugal in 2010, won stages three and four to take the lead from Hirvonen going into midday service. Teammate Loeb ended the morning loop in second, with Hirvonen third and Latvala fourth – just six seconds covering the top four.
Ogier and Latvala took a joint stage win on SS5, allowing Ogier to extend his lead, with Latvala jumping up to second place. Latvala then won SS6 to trim Ogier's lead to 1.8 seconds going into the final stage of the day.
Unwilling to run first on the road on Saturday, Ogier opted to slow down near the end of SS7. This dropped him to fourth overall, 16.7 seconds down on new leader Latvala. It also dropped him behind Hirvonen and Loeb, even though the Frenchman also slowed to ensure a good starting position for Saturday.
After winning the opening stage of the day, privateer Citroen driver Petter Solberg had been running second overall when he suffered a puncture on SS3, costing him a minute and dropping him to sixth. Despite suffering another puncture on SS5 he had been lying fifth going into the final stages, but suffered two further punctures there and opted to not to complete the stage, deciding that retiring from the day and restarting under Superally for Day Two would cost him less time than trying to make it back to service.
M-Sport Stobart drivers Henning Solberg and Matthew Wilson lie fifth and sixth, the Norwegian having overhauled his British teammate on the final test. Armindo Araujo lies an impressive seventh on his home event, where he is debuting the new Mini rally car, albeit in Super 2000 trim, for the Motorsport Italia team. Federico Villagra is eighth in his Munchi's Ford, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen, who lost time to a puncture on his Ice 1 Citroen on SS5. Khalid Al Qassimi rounds out the top ten in his Team Abu Dhabi-entered Fiesta.
After losing a wheel in the Thursday superspecial, Stobart driver Mads Ostberg retired with gearbox issues on the opening stage of the day. Bernardo Sousa, making his World Rally Car debut in a Ford Fiesta, had been ninth until he went off the road on the final stage of the day. Of the remaining WRC competitors, Dennis Kuipers is 11th in his FERM Fiesta, with fellow Dutchman Peter van Merksteijn Jr 14th on his debut in the Citroen DS3 WRC.
Haydon Paddon leads the production category in 12th overall, one place ahead of nearest rival Anders Grondal. Craig Breen leads the WRC Academy category on the maiden event for the new young driver competition, where 18 crews are using identical Ford Fiesta R2s.
Top ten overall after seven stages:
|1.||Jari-Matti Latvala||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1:23:31.4|
|2.||Mikko Hirvonen||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+11.5|
|3.||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||+13.7|
|4.||Sebastien Ogier||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||+16.7|
|5.||Henning Solberg||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:06.5|
|6.||Matthew Wilson||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:11.2|
|7.||Armindo Araujo||Motorsport Italia||Mini John Cooper Works S2000||+3:43.7|
|8.||Federico Villagra||Munchi's||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+4:31.9|
|9.||Kimi Raikkonen||Ice 1 Racing||Citroen DS3 WRC||+4:33.1|
|10.||Khalid Al Qassimi||Team Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+4:35.2|