Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier
has extended his lead on Rally de Portugal this afternoon and now heads the pack by over 25 seconds.
Ogier, who won two out of the three stages this morning and who went into the mid-day service at the Algarve Stadium with a 1.8 second cushion over fellow Citroen
man Dani Sordo, laid down the gauntlet on the repeat loop.
Indeed he began by setting the pace in Santa Clara 2, 5.8 seconds up on his Spanish rival. He then went quickest again in SS6 and SS7, to end the day comfortably out front.
"We pushed really hard throughout the day, while looking after the tyre wear quite well," Ogier said. "The Citroën C4 WRC feels perfect on these roads. Our goal now is to defend our position.
"Opening the road tomorrow will be a big disadvantage, maybe even more than it was today, but I like having to push! We can't back off in any way as the last few events have proved just how quickly a gap can grow or shrink."
Sordo meanwhile remained pretty much in touch until the final stage when he overshot a junction and lost around 10-15 seconds.
"My tyres were very worn and I went straight on when I had to change direction," Sordo explained. "We lost a little time but we hung on to our second place. It won't be easy tomorrow as we have to fend off three drivers who'll have better road conditions."
Sordo's team-mate Sebastien Loeb
is next up, 18.2 seconds off P2, having moved up from fifth to third in the final stage.
"It's been a difficult day mainly because we had to do the sweeping," Loeb said. "Ogier's driven very well and he's built up a good lead. We'll try and catch him tomorrow. There's still a long way to go in the rally, and the second stage will give us a good idea of who's going to come out on top."
BP Ford Abu Dhabi's Mikko Hirvonen
and Petter Solberg
round out the top five, the former only 2 seconds off Loeb.
"I was in no rush to catch the guys ahead because I knew third or fourth tonight would give me a good position in the start order tomorrow," Hirvonen said. "I struggled with my tyres on the final two stages and I expect that tomorrow's roads could be even harder for them. Conditions this morning were OK, but the roads were really abrasive this afternoon and it was tough on the tyres.