Mikko Hirvonen has taken a somewhat unwanted lead on the Acropolis Rally at the end of the opening day after Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala ran into problems on the final stage.
Latvala had led from the opening test of the morning and maintained his advantage through to the second run through Thiva at the end of the day. Rather than slow in an effort to secure a better road position for leg two, Latvala elected to push to extend his advantage but went off the road at a hairpin, losing more than three minutes as spectators helped him back onto the road.
As a result, he dropped down the order from first to eleventh place and will now face a push to break back into the points on day two.
“I guess I had too much speed,” he said. “The car got stuck and even though there were a few people there, I had to get out and explain to them what to do. Of course it's disappointing but you really have to drive if you want to win – you can't just cruise around.”
With Latvala behind on the road, Hirvonen had no idea of what was unfolding in the stage after he stormed through to set the quickest time. Having started third, the Finn had elected to push with the anticipation that Latvala would still be ahead of him on the road, but his time loss – allied to the fact that Dani Sordo decided to slow to secure a better road position – meant that Hirvonen suddenly found himself leading the way going into the second day.
As a result, he will now face the prospect of playing roadsweeper for the rest of the field, with two stages of more than 20km being run twice on the second day.
Sordo's decision to slow on the final stage dropped him three second behind Hirvonen on the times and he will go into the second day of the event running second on the road, while Sebastien Loeb lies third – just over 21 seconds away from the lead. The Frenchman had endured a trying day as he battled with the loose gravel on the stages, but will now hope to attack Hirvonen during day two.
Petter Solberg lies fourth, despite losing time during the morning stages with a steering issue, while brother Henning lies fifth in the sole Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focus to make it to the end of the day after team-mate Matthew Wilson was forced to retire on stage two after losing oil pressure.
Sebastien Ogier lies sixth, but would have been ahead of Solberg had it not been for a puncture on SS4 and a ten second penalty for starting one of the morning stages late. Heading into the second day, he lies just 0.1secs behind the Norwegian.