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.”