Mikko Hirvonen has taken the lead on Rally de Portugal following the opening stage this afternoon.

Hirvonen completed the short test in Lisbon in his Ford Abu Dhabi WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC car, 300 kilometres north of the events main base in Faro, in 2 minutes 49.6 seconds, beating Citroen Total WRT man Sebastien Loeb by 1.3 seconds, while Petter Solberg was third, 0.8 seconds further back.

"It was great to see so many fans enjoying the action," said Hirvonen. "The rally's day out in the capital allowed people, who would otherwise not see the event, to watch our cars in action. The stage was tricky because we didn't have the opportunity to warm up our tyres before the start, but it was fun to drive and I hope we put on a good show.

"Tomorrow the competition starts for real though with tough, long stages so I need to be fully focused from the very beginning."

Sebastien Ogier meanwhile, who will be out to bounce back after his off on the final day in Mexico earlier this month, came in fourth, ahead of Hirvonen's team-mate and Crash.net columnist Jari-Matti Latvala.

Munchi's man Federico Villagra completed the top six with F1 2007 world champion, Kimi Raikkonen, Matthew Wilson, Henning Solberg and Armindo Araujo in positions 7 through to 10, the latter incidentally is one of two drivers' debuting MINI's Super 2000-spec John Cooper Works car this weekend.

M-Sport Stobart Ford man Mads Ostberg had an unfortunate start to the event and lost the front right wheel on his Fiesta RS WRC car after hitting a concrete block. Although he could complete the stage, limping through on three-wheels, he lost a lot of time and was the slowest of the 70 competitors, 1 minute 52.1 seconds off the pace.

In the support categories, Anders Grondal has taken the early lead in the PWRC, while Yeray Lemes heads the new WRC Academy - the replacement for the JWRC.

The action now gets underway 'proper' on Friday, with around 130 competitive kilometres on the bill - and two loops of three identical stages.

SS2, the 22.99 kilometre-run through Santa Clara 1, begins at 09.05 hours local time [08.05 hours UK time].

Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 1 (Top 10):

1. Mikko HirvonenFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC2mins 49.6secs M
2. Sebastien LoebCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 01.3secs M
3. Petter SolbergPSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 02.1secs M
4. Sebastien OgierCitroen Total WRT DS3 WRC+00mins 02.9secs M
5. Jari-Matti LatvalaFord Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 03.7secs M
6. Federico VillagraMunchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 03.9secs M
7. Kimi RaikkonenICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 05.1secs M
8. Matthew WilsonM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 06.2secs A0
9. Henning SolbergM-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 06.5secs M
10. Armindo Ara?joMotorsport Italia/BAMP Mini John Cooper Works S2000 +00mins 08.0secs A1


11. Bernardo Sousa Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 09.0secs A0
12. Dennis KuipersFERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 09.8secs M
13. Khalid Al-QassimiTeam Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC+00mins 10.5secs M
15. Peter Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC+00mins 12.1secs M
16. Anders GrondalSubaru Impreza STi+00mins 13.2secs P
34. Daniel OliveiraBrazil WRT Mini John Cooper Works S2000 +00mins 21.8secs M
70. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC+01mins 52.1secs M

PWRC standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):

1. Anders GrondalSubaru Impreza STi3mins 02.8secs P
2. Nicolas FuchsMitsubishi Lancer Evo X+00mins 00.8secs P
3. Patrik FlodinSubaru Impreza STi+00mins 02.9secs P

WRC Academy standings after Stage 1 (Top 3):

1. Yeray LemesFord Fiesta R23mins 13.3secs A
2. Craig BreenFord Fiesta R2+00mins 00.7secs A
3. Brendan Reeves Ford Fiesta R2+00mins 00.8secs A

Notable retirements:

Pre-SS1 Ken BlockMonster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRCCrashed in shakedown

* denotes re-started under SupeRally.

all times unofficial



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