Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala heads the pack on Rally de Portugal, having moved to the fore in the final stage of Friday morning's loop.
Latvala, who was third quickest in the short opening super special on Thursday night, was only fifth in the first test of the day, but a second best time in SS3 and then a stage win in SS4 vaulted him into P1 and he now heads back to service in Exponor with a 6.1 second cushion. He is the third leader of the day.
“That was a big push [in SS4],” Latvala told the official WRC site. “There was a lot of loose gravel and a lot of cleaning by the cars ahead.”
“Sometimes when you have an opportunity, though, you have to use it. I haven't had a time like that for a long time, so it is nice to use it now,” added the Finn after making the most of his position further down the start order.
Speaking in the mid-day halt, Latvala continued: “I'm really happy to have the feeling back and enjoy attacking. We ran the soft tyres this morning and it was the right choice. They did their job and are now on the limit. For the afternoon, maybe the hard tyres [will be the right choice]. Possibly a mix but more like four hards. I think the last stage of the loop I was giving it almost everything. The two before that, I can improve a lot.”
Meanwhile, Rally Argentina winner Kris Meeke holds second in his Citroen DS 3 WRC, having gone fourth in SS2 and third in SS3 and SS4.
“We saved two [soft] tyres last night [as we used two hard and two soft] but this morning the right choice was soft. But somewhere in the weekend, we will have to take hard tyres, as we don't have enough soft,” Meeke said.
“There are long stages tomorrow, so it will be interesting to see who does what. On the stages, they were really nice. My notes seemed to work well and I really enjoyed them.”
Overnight leader Andreas Mikkelsen is next up, losing time in Viana do Castelo, SS4, as he is running third on the road. The Norwegian was only sixth in that test, 11.4s off Latvala. He is now 9.1s off P1 and 3s off P2.
“The feeling in the car is fantastic,” said Mikkelsen, who is getting his first competitive outing this weekend in the 2015-spec Polo R WRC. “It's not easy to be one of the first cars on the road but I think we have done a faultless morning and hard to do more than we have done. It will be very interesting to see what happens this afternoon. A lot depends on getting the tyre choice right. I believe I have a good strategy.”
Behind, Dani Sordo holds fourth, 3.2s further back. Sordo was quickest in SS2, to take the joint lead with Mikkelsen, but with fifth best times in SS3 and SS4, the Hyundai pilot slipped back.
M-Sport's Ott Tanak rounds out the top-five, with Mads Ostberg sixth in his DS 3 WRC and Championship leader Sebastien Ogier seventh, 25.6s off the lead - and losing out acting as the principal road sweeper.
“One of the worst stages I have ever driven for the sweeping,” Ogier remarked after SS4. “Unbelievable. I expect to lose at least 1sec per kilometres to the guys behind.”
Hayden Paddon then comes in eighth in his Hyundai Motorsport N entry, with Thierry Neuville ninth and former F1 pilot Robert Kubica tenth.
Elfyn Evans had a miserable start after a technical problem in SS2 cost him more than an hour. He did complete SS3 and SS4, but after going OTL will not be able to continue this afternoon. Citroen's Khalid Al Qassimi also went out, retiring before SS4 when his handbrake got stuck.
“It was all going to plan but unfortunately we had an issue with the throttle towards the end of SS2 – with the fly-by-wire. The engineers talked us through various tests to get the car going and eventually we did manage to fix it but it took too long and we ran out of time,” Evans explained.
“The really unfortunate thing is that it wasn't a new part. It's something that's very much tried and tested but it's just one of those things. It will be a relatively easy fix for the technicians and I'm sure we'll be back tomorrow.
“We need to look at the positives and if you look at our pace – and also Ott's pace – I think it's clear to see that we have made a step forward in terms of performance. Looking at those with a similar road position to us, I think we were setting a pretty good pace.”
In WRC2, Karl Kruuda heads the class, 7.3s up on Nasser Al-Attiyah. Yazeed Al-Rajhi is third, 11.8s further back.
The action now continues this afternoon with repeat-runs through this morning's stages. SS5, the 27.53 km , is scheduled to start at 14.50 hours local time. Full itinerary for event available - HERE
2015 Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 4 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 44m 57.1s
2. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 06.1s
3. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 09.2s
4. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 12.3s
5. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 14.3s
6. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 23.3s
7. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 25.7s
8. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +0m 26.0s
9. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +0m 50.3s
10. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 01.5s
11. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 53.8s
12. Karl Kruuda
Citroen DS3 R5 +2m 07.6s
13. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 14.9s
14. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 26.7s
15. Pontus Tidemand
Skoda Fabia R5 +2m 33.6s
WRC2 standings after Stage 4 (Top 3):
1. Karl Kruuda
Citroen DS3 R5 47m 04.7s
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 07.3s
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta RRC +0m 19.1s
SS2. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC OTL
SS4. Khalid Al Qassimi
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC Mechanical
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial