Citroen number one driver Sebastien Loeb has taken the lead on the Acropolis Rally of Greece this morning.
Loeb trailed Jari-Matti Latvala by 2.8 seconds following SS1 last night and initially this morning the Frenchman was second best, with the Ford man quickest in both SS2 and SS3, stretching his overnight lead ever so slightly to 3.3 secs.
However in the next stage, muddy conditions caught out a number of drivers, with several locking up at the same junction and losing time - including Latvala. Loeb thus found himself bumped up to first and he now heads into the first remote service zone of the day in Itea with a 1.2 second cushion.
“The stages were interesting and it is an interesting battle too,” Loeb remarked after SS4. “I didn't take the lead because of my speed though. It's not easy to be in the front. There is a long way to go.”
“It's great to win the first three stages of the rally,” Latvala added. “It was a shame to lose time on the last test. Midway through I came to a tight left bend which was muddy. I wasn't prepared for it to be so slippery and when I braked the engine stalled and the car overshot the corner, but fortunately there was nothing to hit.”
Petter Solberg meanwhile has moved up from fifth to third, leap-frogging Mikko Hirvonen in SS4, when he posted the fastest time – 9.7 seconds quicker than anyone else.
“I was determined to regain the time I lost last night when I made a wrong tyre choice,” said the Norwegian. “I was angry with myself that I hadn't managed to do that in the first two stages, so I pushed hard in the last one and it paid off.
“The car didn't feel properly balanced in right bends, although it was perfect in left corners, so that's something to look at in service,” he added.
Mikko Hirvonen is next up, 6.5 seconds further back and 11 seconds off the lead, after also locking up in SS4 at the same junction as Latvala: “We are still in the game, maybe we could be 4-5 seconds closer, but it is not bad. We went straight in a junction and we made a mistake,” he admitted. “The next stage is going to be very hard for the tyres. It is difficult to decide what tyres to take.”
Behind, Evgeny Novikov rounds out the top five, 30 seconds off P4, followed by Mads Ostberg, Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville in positions six through to eight. Martin Prokop and Sebastien Ogier complete the top-ten.
In the support categories, Valeriy Gorban remains on top in the PWRC, 38 seconds up on Nicolas Fuchs, while Elfyn Evans heads the WRC Academy, having moved into P1 in the first test of the day.
The action now continues with a loop of two tests, Bauxites 1 (23.17 km) and Drossohori (22.00km), before competitors head back to Itea for the second remote service of the day.
Acropolis Rally: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 57mins 41.9secs
2. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 01.2secs
3. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 04.5secs
4. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 11.0secs
5. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 43.2secs
6. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 51.6secs
7. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 31.4secs
8. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 45.3secs
9. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 04.9secs
10. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 23.3secs
11. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 38.7secs
12. Andreas Mikkelsen
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 09.3secs
13. Armindo Araujo
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +04mins 27.1secs
15. Valeriy Gorban
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +06mins 07.7secs
18. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +06mins 45.7secs
19. Paulo Nobre
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +07mins 16.5secs
PWRC standings after Stage 4 – Top 3:
1. Valeriy Gorban
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 1hour 03mins 49.6secs
2. Nicolas Fuchs
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +00mins 38.0secs
3. Subhan Aksa
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +02mins 20.7secs
SS3. Daniel Oliveira
Brazil WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Retired from leg – co-driver ill
all times unofficial