Jari-Matti Latvala has ended day one of the Jordan Rally at the head of the pack, although the picture is somewhat skewed after there was the usual final stage tactical manoeuvrings.

Latvala took the lead this morning in the opening test and he was quickest again in SS2 to increase the gap to 4.3 seconds. Although he slipped back in SS3, when Dani Sordo set the pace, the Finn bounced back in SS4 and headed into the mid-day service with a 0.4 second cushion.

Initially it looked as if Latvala might be handed a 10 second penalty - along with Petter Solberg - for being late for SS3, but at the mid-day service organisers confirmed that it would not be imposed [see separate story - click here].

In the afternoon, Latvala continued to push and he increased his advantage to 7.4 seconds in SS5, with his third stage win of the event. Although he was only second in SS6 and SS7, he completed the day 30.2 seconds up on Sebastien Ogier, as Sordo and Petter both eased off to ensure they will have a better road position for day two, the longest leg of the event.

"If you don't try, you don't gain anything," said Latvala. "The idea was to go flat out. I am not sure if it is a risk being first on the road tomorrow. Let's see."

Sebastien Loeb meanwhile is third, 1.6 seconds off Ogier. The Frenchman struggled running first today, and while he was quickest in the final test, that was only because various drivers went slow.

Behind the provisional top three, Petter is fourth. The Norwegian had been quickest in SS4 and SS6 - and second in SS1, SS2 and SS3 - before he purposely conceded almost 30 seconds in the final stage.

Mikko Hirvonen ended the day fifth, and like Loeb, found the going tough, especially this morning when being second into the tests made more of a difference. He suffered a spin in SS1, and will now start day two 42.2 seconds off his team-mate, Latvala and around 10 seconds off championship rival, Loeb.

"We are behind. Fair play I did not need to slow down. I just drove steady. It helps to be behind Seb [Loeb], but I wish I was a little closer. Still, there are two days to go," said Hirvonen.

Dani Sordo rounds out the top six. He had been right at the front of the pack, but elected to ease off near the end of SS7 and was only 12th quickest.

Of the rest, Stobart Ford duo Henning Solberg and Matt Wilson are seventh and eighth, although both already look to be out of contention - the former 1 minute 20.9 seconds off P6. Federico Villagra and Kimi Raikkonen complete the top ten, split by more than a minute. Raikkonen found the going taxing and described it as his 'most difficult day in a rally car'.

In the SWRC, Bernardo Sousa leads in his Ford Fiesta S2000, 12.1 seconds up on Xavier Pons. Day 1 though really took its toll on the SWRC field, with seven of the nine runners hitting problems, including early leader, P-G Andersson (who crashed out in SS3), as well as Nasser Al-Attiyah (who led from then until his own exit in SS5) and Michal Kosciuszko (who had problems in the final test).

As for the PWRC, Patrik Flodin ends proceedings in the lead, after a good battle with Armindo Araujo. Flodin is 12.3 seconds up on Araujo, with Martin Semerad sandwiched between them in second.

The action now continues tomorrow with six stages on the bill. Friday is the longest day of the event, with almost 140 competitive kilometres. SS8, Suwayma 1 [10.49 km], starts at 08.11 hours local time [06.11 hours UK time].

Overall standings after Stage 7 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC 1hour 11mins 31.5secs M
2. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +00mins 30.2secs M
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 31.8secs M
4. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen C4 WRC +00mins 32.5secs A8
5. Mikko Hirvonen BP Ford Abu Dhabi Focus RS WRC +00mins 42.2secs M
6. Dani Sordo Citroen Total WRT C4 WRC +00mins 45.4secs M
7. Henning Solberg Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +01mins 20.9secs M
8. Matthew Wilson Stobart VK Ford Focus WRC +02mins 01.1secs A8
9. Federico Villagra Munchi's Ford Focus WRC +02mins 48.2secs M
10. Kimi Raikkonen Citroen Junior Team C4 WRC +03mins 50.5secs M

SWRC Standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):

1. Bernardo Sousa Ford Fiesta S2000 1hour 15mins 54.2secs S
2. Xavier Pons Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 12.1secs S
3. Michal Kosciuszko Ford Fiesta S2000 +09mins 26.6secs S

PWRC Standings after Stage 7 (Top 3):

1. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza Sti 1hour 16mins 04.7secs P
2. Martin Semerad Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 09.4secs P
3. Armindo Araujo Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +00mins 12.3secs P

all times unofficial

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