Jari-Matti Latvala has won his first competitive stage since returning from a broken collarbone to lead Rally Greece at the end of day one, but with the ever present Sebastien Loeb less than three seconds behind.
Latvala’s Ford team-mate Petter Solberg had won the earlier qualifying stage, allowing him first pick in the running order; however it made little difference in Thursday’s sole stage, the Norwegian only ending up 5th fastest. It was not the starting order that caused him to lose almost 15 seconds to his team-mate, rather his choice of soft compound Pirellis whilst everyone else had picked the harder compound rubber.
“It was my decision and I believed in it,” he said. “I thought it could have been colder, it was just a mistake and I should have listened to the team. Okay, that's how it is and we learn from that. We are not out of [contention].”
The second works Citroen of Mikko Hirvonen went third fastest, 7.1 seconds down on Latvala, while Mads Ostberg continued his good form this year by setting the fourth quickest time. Further down the leaderboard it was already becoming a case of avoiding attrition; firstly, Evgeny Novikov admitted his driving simply wasn’t good enough, yet still came 6th. Right behind him was M-Sport team-mate Ott Tanak, who after breaking the steering on his Fiesta RS in the morning qualifying stage then spun his car in the first competitive stage of the event. Thierry Neuville in the Citroen Junior DS3 was even worse than Novikov, complaining about the setup of his car, the pace notes and generally lacking confidence at the wheel.
Paulo Nobre running first on the opening day and then coming across some sort of obstacle seems to happening so often this season it is bordering on a cliche, but this time it was something rather more unusual and unpleasant that hindered his progress – the rear door of his Countryman WRC opened, causing dust to pour into the car and leaving Nobre barely able to breathe never mind see.