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Ogier leads, but nothing in it

Sébastien Ogier heads the pack after the first morning loop of this weekend's Rally Portugal, but Citroën team-mate Sébastien Loeb and Ford duo Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala are all within six seconds of him
Citroën Total World Rally Team star Sébastien Ogier has taken an early lead on this weekend's Rally Portugal, but with four of the 17 stages completed, a scant six seconds blankets the top four competitors.

Ogier snatched the lead off the back of a blistering performance on SS4, the 21.31-kilometre Felizes run, and as he bids to atone for the accident that cost him a likely victory in Mexico three weeks ago with a repeat of his breakthrough World Rally Championship triumph in the Algarve last year, the Frenchman holds a slender 2.8-second advantage over team-mate, namesake and compatriot Sébastien Loeb.

“I'm happy at the moment,” the 27-year-old confessed. “Everything is perfect. We started quite slowly and it took some time to wake up, but now it's okay. The rally is very long, though.”

Having cured earlier understeer issues by modifying the suspension settings on his own DS3 WRC, Loeb acknowledged that compared to Mexico and Sweden, Portugal is 'a more even fight because there is not so much road cleaning', whilst the championship's 'recordman' was hotly pursued himself by Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team pairing Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, the Finnish duo separated by just 2.7 seconds.

World championship leader and Thursday super-special pace-setter Hirvonen only actually conceded his advantage on SS4 and admitted that he has enjoyed 'a good morning' – but there were fewer smiles in the Petter Solberg camp, with a superb effort to top the times on SS2 being swiftly undone by a front-right puncture on SS3, costing the luckless Norwegian more than a minute.

Sixth is Matthew Wilson, just ahead of his own M-Sport Stobart team-mate Henning Solberg – as both reported suspected misfires in their Fiesta RS WRCs – with former F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen eighth and conceding to finding it tough going on gravel after skipping the Mexican round.

Armindo Araújo has climbed to an impressive ninth on the WRC bow for the new MINI John Cooper Works Super 2000 – although the local hero insists he is taking no risks as he seeks simply to gain experience in the car for the future – with Bernardo Sousa overcoming an earlier 'off' to currently round out the top ten on his Ford Fiesta RS WRC debut.

There were similar setbacks for Federico Villagra and Khalid Al Qassimi in eleventh and 12th respectively, whilst Mads Østberg was forced out of the reckoning as early as stage two with a broken gearbox.

On his debut in a Subaru Impreza, meanwhile, Hayden Paddon has stolen the PWRC lead from Andres Grondal, whilst title rival Patrik Flodin lost in the region of eight minutes with a roll on stage three. Craig Breen has supplanted José Suárez at the top of the leaderboard for the new-for-2011 FIA WRC Academy for identical Ford Fiesta R2s.


Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 43mins 22.2secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 02.8secs M
3. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 03.3secs M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 06.0secs M
5. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 55.8secs M
6. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 14.2secs A0
7. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 19.2secs M
8. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +01mins 54.2secs M
9. Armindo Araújo Motorsport Italia/BAMP Mini John Cooper Works S2000 +01mins 54.9secs A1
10. Bernardo Sousa Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 12.6secs A0

Others:

11. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 24.8secs M
12. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 37.0secs M
13. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03mins 06.1secs M
15. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi +03mins 26.5secs P
16. Peter Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +03mins 42.4secs M
28. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works S2000 +06mins 33.9secs M


PWRC standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Hayden Paddon Subaru Impreza STI 46mins 34.8secs P
2. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi +00mins 13.9secs P
3. Ricardo Moura Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +01mins 45.8secs P


WRC Academy standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta R2 49mins 21.3secs A
2. Yeray Lemes Ford Fiesta R2 +00mins 29.8secs A
3. Alastair Fisher Ford Fiesta R2 +00mins 58.3secs A


Notable retirements:

Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC Gearbox on SS2 M
Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Crashed in shakedown


all times unofficial



Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Miikka Anttila (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC, BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN), Ford Fiesta RS WRC,  BP Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Sebastien Loeb (FRA) Daniel Elena (MON), Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total World Rally Team
Sebastien Ogier (F) Julien Ingrassia (F) Citroen DS3 WRC, Citroen Total World Rally Team
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