Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier heads the pack on Rally de Portugal following the opening four stages.

Ogier, who was second quickest in qualifying on Thursday for the fourth round in the 2013 World Rally Championship, opted for soft tyres this morning and while it was a bit of gamble - especially given there is no service until after SS5 - it didn't seem to hurt him too much.

Indeed he was fastest in SS1 in his Polo R WRC car, 4 seconds up on his closest rival. Although he then slipped back in SS2, and with only the third best time, lost the lead to the hard charging, Mads Ostberg, he regained top spot in the next stage, when the Norwegian rolled his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC.

Ogier eventually finished SS4 2.4 seconds up on Dani Sordo and now just the short 3.27 km Lisboa super special remains to be run before drivers head back to the Algarve Stadium for Service A.

"Maybe the tyre choice was not perfectly right but I know I am quite good at saving tyres, so I tried it," said Ogier, who is still not feeling 100 per cent and who was only third in SS3 and fourth in SS4. "Tomorrow we will continue like that, if we can."

Behind, Sordo went for the opposite strategy and ran with the harder compound tyres. While it cost him in SS1 and he was only fifth, he clawed back time in the following three tests, going second quickest in SS2, before winning both SS3 and SS4.

"Ogier was faster to start with but we pushed a bit more after. I am very confident with the car - this is very important," said the Citroen ace. "The team has done a very good job with it. Tomorrow is another day - a difficult day - but I will try to continue this way."

Jari-Matti Latvala meanwhile lies third and despite being 8.9 seconds further adrift, he was pretty happy with his form: "The feeling has been getting better. I am generally enjoying it but I know I can improve the car, with some work on the suspension. I know there is more to come," said the Finn, who set his best time of the event thus far in SS3, when he was second.

Mikko Hirvonen and Thierry Neuville round out the top five, the former 5.8 seconds off P3 in his Citroen DS3 WRC and 11 seconds up on P5.

"We left this morning with too stiff springs," Hirvonen lamented. "I pushed hard on the last two stages. I made a few mistakes but I can't go any faster. I know what's wrong but with no service, I can't do anything about it. It is frustrating."

Further back, Evgeny Novikov, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Michal Kosciuszko hold positions 6 through to 8, with Martin Prokop and Dennis Kuipers completing the provisional top-ten. Andreas Mikkelsen, running in the third works VW Polo R WRC, had been seventh, until he lost over 2.5 minutes in SS4 with power steering problems.

In WRC2, Esapekka Lappi has dominated thus far in his Skoda Fabia S2000, winning all four stages to establish a 23.5 second lead over former F1 man Robert Kubica. Kubica had overheating problems in SS2 and had to make repairs on the road section to SS3. He also suffered a puncture in SS4, but remains 'best of the rest' in the class, 3.4 seconds up on Elfyn Evans. In WRC3, Keith Cronin leads, 3.2 seconds ahead of Alastair Fisher.

As for retirements, the key casualty was Ostberg, who - as mentioned above - went out in SS3 when he went off the road. It is not yet known if he will be able to re-start on Saturday under the Rally 2 regulation.

Friday's opening leg now concludes with SS5, the 3.27 km Lisboa super special, due to run at 6.15pm local time.

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

1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 46mins 38.5secs M
2. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +02.4s M
3. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +11.3s M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +17.1s M
5. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +28.1s T
6. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 08.7s M
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 10.7s
8. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC MINI John Cooper Works WRC +2m 18.2s T
9. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 18.7s T
10. Dennis Kuipers Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 37.9s


11. Khalid Al-Qassimi Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +2m 48.6s T
12. Esapekka Lappi Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000 +3m 03.2s WRC2
13. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +3m 26.7s WRC2
14. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RRC +3m 30.1s WRC2
15. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Auto Deutschland Fabia S2000 +3m 34.4s WRC2
16. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +3m 45.3s T

WRC2 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Esapekka Lappi Skoda Motorsport Fabia S2000 49m 41.7s WRC2
2. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +23.5s WRC2
3. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RRC +26.9s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):

1. Keith Cronin Citroen DS3 R3T 52m 40.2s WRC3
2. Alastair Fisher Citroen DS3 R3T +03.2secs WRC3
3. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +11.2s WRC3

Notable retirements:

SS3. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Rolled M*

*Not yet know if he will re-start under SupeRally on day 2

all times unofficial