Dani Sordo emerges in front in Portugal
Dani Sordo and Marc Marti top the provisional leaderboard after the first morning of action in Portugal. Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena, who face the unenviable task of running first on the road today, follow a short distance behind in fourth place, 22.7 seconds adrift of their Citroën Total WRT team-mates. Citroën Junior Team runners Evgeny Novikov and Sébastien Ogier both figure inside the top-eight.

A score of three fastest times and one third-best time on the four stages contested to date has seen Dani Sordo and Marc Marti emerge as the most consistent crew halfway into the opening day of the 2009 Rally de Portugal. The Spanish pair is currently fourth overall, 3.2s clear of Marcus Grönholm : "I am pleased with my performance so far, but the rally has only just begun and we have only completed four stages. Our road order today is more favourable than that of Sébastien and Mikko Hirvonen, but other crews further down the order are in an even better position than us. We will see how our rivals go this afternoon. As for us, we will try to keep to the same sort of pace as this morning, without taking any big risks."

The spectators revelled in this morning’s near-perfect backdrop of clear skies and hot weather, but the stage conditions meant that Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena had to spend much of their time sweeping a clear line for the competitors running behind them on the road. That said, it is a situation with which the championship leaders are more than familiar : "We’re not doing too badly. It looked as though Latvala was going to pull out a big lead, but he made a mistake. Our position is by no means catastrophic : we are 22 seconds down on first place and, with a bit of luck, we won’t be on roadsweeping duty tomorrow…"

The gap of 22s is essentially due to an error shortly after the start of SS2 : "I went straight on at the first corner that called for really hard braking… from sixth gear. I wasn’t sure I would make it through the turn, so I decided to take the safe option. I then found myself in my own dust, however : I couldn’t see a thing and we had to wait something like 15s for the dust to settle !"

Evgeny Novikov and Dale Moscatt checked in at the lunchtime service halt after an applied run which saw them post a fifth-quickest time on SS4 (Malhao) on their way to provisional seventh overall : "Today’s first stage was a tough one. The conditions were very slippery and I had to make corrections to my pacenotes on SS3. I felt more comfortable on the final stage of the loop and I will try to keep to the same sort of rhythm this afternoon."

Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are currently eighth, just behind the Russian : "I decided to drive cautiously this morning. Even running eighth on the road, the stages aren’t entirely swept clean. We gradually upped our pace but my main objective here is to finish the rally without making any mistakes."

Conrad Rautenbach and Daniel Barritt follow in 11th spot after encountering brake trouble : "We were able to start curing the problem on the road section between SS2 and SS3 and we succeeded in making full repairs before the start of the morning’s final stage. I have a good feeling with my car and I will try to drive the same way this afternoon."

After the 30-minute service halt, crews returned to contest the same loop a second time. SS5 (Ourique 2) is due to start at 3pm.

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