Citroen number one driver, Sebastien Loeb snatched the lead on the Rally de Portugal, the fifth round in the 2007 FIA World Rally Championship, on the final test on Friday.

Loeb trailed BP Ford's Marcus Gronholm for much of the opening leg and although he lost touch on the first two stages today, the 19.92 kilometre-run through Tavira 1 and the 24.38 kilometre-run through Serra de Tavira 1, he turned the tables in SS4, when he took his first stage win of the event. That result moved him up to second overall, just 2.6 seconds off Gronholm going into the mid-day service.

On the repeat loop in the afternoon it was again a close run affair, but while Gronholm stretched his cushion in SS5 and took the gap up to 6 seconds, Seb struck back in SS6 and SS7.

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Two stage wins in succession saw the margin tumble, first to 1.5 seconds after SS6, before the Citroen driver went in front on the 16.08 kilometre S Bras de Alportel 2. Loeb will now take a 3.1 second lead into the second day on Saturday, the longest leg of the event, with over 150 competitive kilometres to run.

Gronholm for his part, after grabbing the lead in the super special on Thursday night, was right on it in SS2 and SS3, despite hitting a rock in Tavira, which damaged the suspension on his Focus. He was slowed in SS4 though, when the shock absorber finally gave up the ghost.

Despite no problems in the afternoon he was unable to match Loeb in the final two tests and slipped down a place to second.

Mikko Hirvonen meanwhile holds third, 22.2 seconds off his BP Ford team-mate. Hirvonen began the day with a stage win, something that took him from sixth overall to second, however he slipped back to third in SS3, a position he has held ever since.

Although the Finn came under some pressure in SS5, when Petter Solberg cut the gap to 1 second, Mikko outpaced him in both SS6 and SS7, to take the margin to 7.5 seconds.

Petter was generally pleased with his day and once again underlined the potential of the new Impreza, although not quite as spectacularly as he did in Mexico. Despite that though he still managed two second quickest times, and he ended the day fourth, 32.8 seconds off the lead.

Daniel Sordo currently completes the top five, the Spanish youngster setting solid times all day long. He was unable to hold onto the top four though and by the end of the first leg was over a minute adrift.

Further down the order, Stobart Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala ended the day on a high, having set three top-three stage times. It was a good turnaround for the Finn, especially after his spin in the super special on Thursday night, which cost him around 10 seconds. He also lost time this morning too, in SS2, when the gearbox played up.

OMV Kronos Citroen's Manfred Stohl and Daniel Carlsson come in seventh and ninth, sandwiching the second works Impreza of Chris Atkinson. Stohl had no problems and was happy with his car. Carlsson also had no real issues, although a 'big moment' in SS4, when he thought he was going to hit a tree, knocked his confidence somewhat. Atkinson also struggled for confidence, and while he made some set-up changes in service B, he still wasn't happy with his car.

Mitsubishi privateer, Toni Gardemeister completed the top ten, 9.4 seconds off Carlsson. The Finn was left cursing his error on SS3, when he bent a wishbone, something that ultimately dropped him out of the top eight.

Of the rest, Henning Solberg was eleventh after a disappointing showing - 9.5 seconds off Gardemeister and 14.1 seconds up on Gigi Galli.

After Galli came Portuguese national champion, Armindo Araujo, in 13th and Ford's Matthew Wilson, Andreas Mikkelsen and Gareth MacHale, in 14th, 15th and 16th respectively.

In the Junior Rally Championship, Urmo Aava has been in a class of his own, winning five tests from a possible seven. As a result he now has a commanding lead, 34.9 seconds up on Per-Gunnar Andersson, who is second in the sister Suzuki Swift. Michal Kosciuszko rounds out the top three, also in a Swift, albeit an extra 2 minutes further back.

As for the retirees, the biggest name to have to call it a day, was Britain's Guy Wilks. Wilks rolled in the second stage of the day, after having set a good time in SS2, when he was tenth quickest overall. His outing though ended prematurely when he went off the road in SS3.

The action now resumes on Saturday, when competitors will face another three tests, all run twice, to make up the second leg. The first, the 30.69 kilometre-run through Silves / Ourique 1 [SS8], begins at 09.48 hours [local time].