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.