Novikov benefited from a great starting position at the beginning of SS4 – 11th overall – and managed to cross the finish line more than 2 seconds ahead of overall leader Jari-Matti Latvala, with Spain's Daniel Sordo some 0.6 seconds further in the back. The 18-year old Russian was to be struck by bad luck in the very following stage, however, as the shredding of both his Citroen's rear tires caused him to drop more than 3 minutes in a single run.
Ogier took over from Novikov for Citroen Junior in SS5, as the Frenchman managed to preserve his tires well enough – after previously suffering a puncture during SS4 – to finish the stage 4.8 seconds ahead of Petter Solberg.
“After the puncture on the previous stage it’s good for the confidence to do a stage like this,” said Ogier.
“We had some difficulty with traction in places but we pushed quite hard. It’s too bad we lost time earlier, but we’ll get everything 100 per cent right with the car later,” added SS5 runner-up Solberg.
Latvala continued to preserve his time advantage on top of the overall classification, as he is now more than 10 seconds ahead of second placed Dani Sordo with one stage to go on Friday. Teammate Mikko Hirvonen is placed some 9 seconds further (in 3rd spot), while championship leader and reigning WRC champion Sebastien Loeb is on a distant 4th place (37 seconds from leader Latvala). Petter Solberg, Mads Ostberg (also with tire-wear problems during SS5), Ogier and Henning Solberg complete the overall Top 8 with one stage to go in Day 1.
Considering that the overall standings of the Friday session will determine the starting order of the Saturday running, Latvala did not play down suggestions of a technical run during SS6, later today.
“Will there be tactics later? I don’t know, but I know I can drive from first on the road if I have to,” admitted Latvala.