BP Ford Abu Dhabi team leader Mikko Hirvonen has seen his advantage increase this morning on the Acropolis Rally of Greece, the seventh round in the 2009 World Rally Championship.
Mikko, who began the day just 3 seconds up on Dani Sordo, had expected to slip back behind the Spaniard and championship leader Sebastien Loeb as a result of his position on the road.
However, despite playing the 'road sweeper', the Finn now leads by 24.8 seconds after Loeb and Sordo, his principal threats, both hit trouble and were forced out.
Loeb was the first major casualty, crashing out and heavily damaging his Citroen C4 WRC car in the opening test. Seb and co-driver, Daniel Elena both escaped unhurt in the incident in SS7, but they will not be able to re-start on Sunday under the SupeRally format.
Sordo meanwhile joined his Citroen team-mate on the sidelines in SS9, when he hit a rock and damaged the suspension. The same rock also claimed Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg.
"I pushed as hard as I could," said Mikko after Kefalari 1 and after topping the times in the 24.15 km stage. "Petter is really fast. I will keep on trying my best. There is a long way to go. It is a hard rally and it is easy to have a puncture."
Petter, who is 'best of the rest', was fifth and second fastest in the opening two stages and while he lost time in SS9, slowed by Sordo's problems, he was later awarded the same time as Hirvonen.
"Safety comes first. It doesn't matter - that is the way it should be," said the Norwegian. "I had to follow the rules after being warned with the yellow flag. I hope to go faster in the afternoon."
Sebastien Ogier completes the provisional podium, albeit over a minute further back in his Citroen Junior Team-run C4 WRC.
"It was a difficult morning, it has been very slippery," said Ogier. "Our times and car feeling are good, but there is still a long way to go. We have to save the tyres."