WRC Day One: Mikko Hirvonen Takes the Lead in Portugal

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WRC Day One: Mikko Hirvonen Takes the Lead in Portugal

Mikko Hirvonen currently leads the pack after day one of the Rally of Portugal.

Dani Sordo in his Citroen had been in the lead at the mid-day service, but amazingly he committed the same blunder his teammate Sebastien Loeb had made in the morning and went off on the first corner of the Ourique stage when it was re-run at the start of the loop.

Hirvonen made a move to the front of the field as Sordo’s off cost the Citroen driver 20 seconds. The Ford driver will be first on the road tomorrow as he has established a 15s lead over the recovering Sordo.

"It's great to be leading and I will give everything tomorrow to try to retain that," Hirvonen said. "I don't know if my lead is big enough to offset that disadvantage, and I think start order will play a big part over the next two days, but I have defended my lead from the front before so it can be done," he continued on.

"This morning my pace notes were a little slow for these roads," Hirvonen also said. "I think that was a carryover from the previous round in Cyprus where the stages were much slower."

It wasn't a happy birthday for Latvala. The Finn, who is 24 today, took full advantage of his lower start position to set the fastest time through the morning's opening two tests to build a 10.6s lead.

However, Latvala crashed heavily in the following stage, his Focus RS plunging over a roadside barrier and rolling down a hillside, eventually coming to rest 150 meters from the track.

Video footage showed the car rolled almost 20 times. Incredibly both Latvala and Anttila escaped without serious injury thanks to the strength of the car.

Loeb made progress after his error this morning while running first on the dusty surface. He improved his position on the leaderboard from seventh to third, but is 18s behind leader Hirvonen.

After over a year away, Marcus Gronholm ran second on his return to the World Rally Championship, until losing 20s on the final stage of the day. That dropped Gronholm in his Prodrive Subaru to fourth, only 8s behind Loeb, and should benefit from a better starting position tomorrow.

Petter Solberg completes the top five in his privately run Citroen Xsara, maintaining a 42-second deficit, while pulling clear of the skirmish for sixth.

Improving his pace, as the leg progressed, Sebastien Ogier has now moved past his Citroen Junior's teammate, Evgeny Novikov and Stobart Ford's Matthew Wilson to break into the top six.

Stobart Ford's Henning Solberg was hampered by brake problems this morning, but was on pace for the repeat loop and caught Novikov, and is just 0.1s behind.

Leading Positions After Day One

Pos  Driver                Car             Time
 1.  Mikko Hirvonen    Ford            1h24m12.6
 2.  Dani Sordo          Citroen        +15.0s
 3.  Sebastien Loeb    Citroen        +18.0s
 4.  Marcus Gronholm Subaru        +25.9s
 5.  Petter Solberg      Citroen        +42.2s
 6.  Sebastien Ogier    Citroen        +1m04.0s
 7.  Matthew Wilson    Ford            +1m14.6s
 8.  Evgeny Novikov    Citroen        +1m33.7s
 9.  Henning Solberg   Ford            +1m33.8s
10.  Mads Ostberg      Subaru         +2m42.1s

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of BP Ford World Rally Team

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