Sebastien Loeb leads Rally d'Italia Sardegna after the opening loop of the first morning, despite holding the position of road sweeper on Friday morning.

The Citroen man moved into the lead of the event on the final stage of the morning to head into the remote service 2.7secs clear of the Ford of Mikko Hirvonen.

Behind the top two, Evgeny Novikov is an impressive third after a solid start to the event at the wheel of his Stobart Ford Fiesta while Mads Ostberg is close behind in fourth. It was a mixed morning for the Stobart crews however with Henning Solberg's car briefly catching fire after SS3 and PG Andersson losing well over 16 minutes on the same stage when he had to stop and repair a steering arm.

Sebastien Ogier holds fifth place ahead of Petter Solberg, who lost time when a turbo boost pipe worked loose on the second stage. Henning Solberg sits seventh despite his drama while Dani Sordo is eighth in the first of the debuting Mini John Cooper Works.

Team-mate Kris Meeke had run as high as fourth before being forced to retire on stage three after a sticking throttle saw him clip a rock and take a wheel off his car, while Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala was another retirement after damage caused by an accident on SS1 forced him to stop on the second stage of the morning.

"About 3km after the start of the opening stage, Miikka made a mistake with a pace note and called a left corner much faster than it was," Latvala said. "I approached the bend almost flat out, and by the time I realised it was slower and tighter it was too late. I tried to brake, but the road was slippery and the car went backwards into the ditch and hit a wall.

"The car ended back on the road but the impact damaged the left steering arm. We drove to the finish and tried to make repairs for the next stage, but there was little we could do. We tried to drive the stage but it was too much for the suspension wishbone and steering arm, which snapped after 6km. I don't blame Miikka. I've made plenty of mistakes behind the wheel and every co-driver has made an error at some point. We all try to be perfect, but we're only human."

Rally d'Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 44mins 35.2secs M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 02.7secs M
3. Evgeny Novikov M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 11.9secs A0
4. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 19.8secs M
5. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 20.8secs M
6. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC +00mins 26.3secs M
7. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 42.4secs M
8. Dani Sordo Mini WRC Team John Cooper Works +00mins 45.5secs M
9. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 +01mins 02.2secs S
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Fiesta S2000 +01mins 11.2secs S

Others:

11. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 19.0secs A0
14. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 44.9secs M
15. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 53.3secs M
16. Armindo Araujo Motorsport Italia Mini John Cooper Works +02mins 03.7secs A0
17. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 15.4secs M
20. Peter van Merksteijn Jr Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC +03mins 19.4secs M
25. Patrick Flodin Mini John Cooper Works +05mins 29.1secs A0
40. PG Andersson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +17mins 17.0secs A0

SWRC standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Ott Tanak Ford Fiesta S2000 45mins 37.4secs S
2. Martin Prokop Czech Ford National Fiesta S2000 +00mins 09.0secs S
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah Barwa WRT Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 31.6secs S

Retirements:

SS2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC Suspension M
SS2. Daniel Oliveira Brazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works Stopped in stage A0
SS3. Kris Meeke Mini WRC Team John Cooper Works Lost wheel M

all times unofficial