Stage data: SS3, Thiva 1 (23.60 kilometres)
By M-Sport Ford Rally Team co-driver Denis Giraudet: “This is a classic stage and I remember finding a parking place on this stage in 1999 with Didier Auriol when we took a wheel off. Juha Kankkunen also took the wheel off but he was able to finish the stage. It was a very old stone we hit because it was hidden under the grass on the side of the road. It was the end of our rally then but it’s a very nice stage and we have something like 60 junctions so plenty of opportunities for spectators.”
How the action unfolded:
The extremely close action continued at the front of the Acropolis Rally field on Thiva, as Jari-Matti Latvala, Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg set times just 0.2s apart despite light rain making the latter part of the 23.6-kilometre stage increasingly tricky.
Ford World Rally Team driver Latvala was the stage winner, beating Citroen DS3 WRC man Loeb by a tenth of a second to take his rally lead up to 3.3s.
"At the end, the last two kilometres, it's been maybe raining at some point so it's a bit slippery and muddy in some corners, so it was a little bit scary, but we're okay," said Latvala.
The Finn's team-mate Solberg was back on the pace and his time 0.2s off Latvala brought him up to within 3.2s of third-placed Mikko Hirvonen in the second factory Citroen. But despite his speed, Solberg remained disconcerted by his car's handling.
"It's not very good to drive, it's really difficult to keep it perfect into right hand corners. Left hand corners, I'm okay. I'm trying my best," he said.
Hirvonen was one of several drivers to carry two spare tyres and run a crossover mixture of hard and soft compounds to try and deal with the unpredictable weather, but his team-mate Loeb committed to dry weather tactics.
"I didn't expect rain. I hope I'm not wrong," he said. "There was not a big difference between the two choices, so I took one spare for the wet and it's been okay up to now."
Behind the leaders, Mads Ostberg (Adapta Ford) sustained a puncture five kilometres from the finish but barely lost any time and is still sixth between M-Sport Ford drivers Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak.