May 22, 2015

VIANA DO CASTELO, Portugal (AP) Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala took the lead of the Rally of Portugal after race organizers canceled one of Friday's seven scheduled stages because of a forest fire.

Latvala steered his Volkswagen Polo to an 11-second lead over British driver Kris Meeke in second place with two more days of driving to go.

Two-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier is in sixth place, 25 seconds off the pace.

Latvala was runner-up to teammate Ogier last season and finished the first race of this season in second place, but he didn't score a point in the next three rallies.

''It's coming good,'' Latvala said. ''After a steady start we increased the pace stage by stage and attacked more. That final stage suited me well. I've had hard times recently so it would be great to have a good event, but tomorrow will be tough.''

Organizers canceled the race's fifth stage, a 27.53-kilometer (17.1-mile) drive around the town of Ponte de Lima near the northern border with Spain, because of ''nearby forest fires.''

Portugal has had a dry winter and spring, and May has seen record monthly temperatures. Race organizers said around 250 firefighters had been fighting the blaze since it started on Thursday afternoon.

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