Latvala leads French thriller

The Finn holds a slim lead in his VW Polo over Sordo, Ogier and Loeb on Saturday of Rallye de France! However in WRC 2, Kubica is on track for the victory.

Latvala leads French thriller

Jari-Matti Latvala holds a slender lead of four-tenths of a second in Rallye de France following a thrilling day that ended with four drivers covered by five seconds ahead of tomorrow's final leg.

Latvala snatched the lead through the final stage tonight to bring his Volkswagen Polo R back to Strasbourg in front of Dani Sordo. The Spaniard lies just 1.1sec clear of Sebastien Ogier, with Sebastien Loeb still chasing victory in his final rally a further 3.5sec adrift.

This 11th round of the WRC blew apart when Thierry Neuville, leading by 13.1sec in a Ford Fiesta RS, slid wide and punctured his rear left tyre in this afternoon’s opening stage. He lost nearly 90sec and dropped out of contention to fifth.

It left Sordo in front, but an increasingly confident Latvala gradually reeled in the Citroen DS3 after a day characterised by constantly changing conditions. Drivers encountered fog, rain, and mud this morning, before temporarily drier roads this afternoon offered consistency until the wet weather returned.

“It’s incredible the kind of fight we’re having,” said Latvala, who has yet to win a stage. “It’s one of the greatest rallies I have been involved in. I was perhaps too cautious on a couple of stages but the main thing is I made no mistakes. I’ve dug out some little things that have been missing from my driving.”

Sordo paid tribute to his rival after the duo fought for tenths of a second throughout the day. “Latvala was really good. I lost time in the last long stage but I’m fighting with the best in the world, so that’s very nice,” he said.

After a lacklustre opening day, Ogier was right back on form. He won five of the seven tests in his Polo R to propel himself into the thick of the fight.

“After yesterday I had a doubt that I would be able to come back, but I had a perfect day. I pushed hard, the car worked well and I had a perfect feeling with it, so I must continue like this tomorrow,” said Ogier.

Loeb lost a few seconds when his DS3 developed understeer this afternoon but earlier claimed his 900th career stage win. “It’s so tight, such a tough fight,” said the Frenchman. “I tried to push hard all day but I wasn’t always happy with the car, myself, everything. But we’re still in the fight so it’s not so bad.”

Neuville was deflated after seeing his hopes of a maiden win shattered, but he bounced back to win the penultimate test. “It’s the first time I’ve suffered this season and I had a good lead and was fighting for the victory. I saw I could be ahead of both Sebastiens, both world champions, so I think we’ve done well,” said the Belgian who is 1min 10.4sec off the lead.

Evgeny Novikov enjoyed a steady day to hold sixth in his Fiesta RS, 2min 16.4sec behind Neuville and 26.7sec ahead of Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3. Hirvonen struggled to talk as a throat infection worsened, but he holds a 14.1sec advantage over Mads Ostberg’s Fiesta RS.

Andreas Mikkelsen could not get to grips with an understeering Polo R in the wet and slipped a couple of places to ninth, while Czech driver Martin Prokop rounded off the top 10.

Tomorrow’s final leg offers six more tests north of Strasbourg covering 56.58km. There is no mid-leg service and the final stage runs through the streets of Haguenau, Loeb’s home town. Will there be a fairy tale ending for the retiring champion?

WRC 2

Robert Kubica remains way out front in the WRC 2 category following two days of competition at Rallye de France - Alsace.

After fourteen all-asphalt stages, the Pole brought his Citroen DS3 RRC back to service in Strasbourg with a lead of 3m 30.1s over Welshman Elfyn Evans, who dropped out of winning contention when he got a puncture on Friday.

In a glimpse of what might have been, Evans, in a Ford Fiesta R5, was quickest on two of Saturday morning’s tests while Kubica was untouchable through the third. In the afternoon, both drivers won two stages apiece.

Rashid Al Ketbi completes the provisional podium, although the Fiesta R5 driver is a distant 9min 46sec behind Evans.

“The mistake that Evans made yesterday helped us but I'm still driving well and without risks,” said Kubica, who will move top in the WRC 2 championship standings if he wins here.

“It was a difficult day but we had no problems. The stages were quite tricky with a lot of cuts and mud. It was the first time for me driving with these tyres in the wet,” he added.

Evans overcame a technical issue to remain on course for 18 points on Sunday – the same result he achieved at Rallye Deutschland.

“We had a small brake problem but it was manageable,” he explained. “When it happened in the first stage this morning I expected it would get worse but it didn’t, so it hasn't been a big issue. Overall it’s been a good day, I can’t complain. I'm pleased with the progress we made from yesterday.”

Ricardo Trivino is fourth in a Subaru Impreza, 24 minutes behind Kubica, with Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X driver Marco Vallario rounding off the top five.

FIA WRC

shares
comments
Volkswagen third, fifth and seventh on Friday in France

Previous article

Volkswagen third, fifth and seventh on Friday in France

Next article

Just 0.4 seconds ahead: Latvala leads French thriller

Just 0.4 seconds ahead: Latvala leads French thriller
Load comments
How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain Prime

How Neuville stole the show from Ogier vs Evans slugfest in Spain

While all pre-event chat focused on the two World Rally Championship title fighters, their closest challenger charged into the spotlight on Rally Spain. Thierry Neuville's star turn and another strong drive from Elfyn Evans in his fight with Sebastien Ogier made for an intriguing event as the 2021 campaign nears its crunch point

WRC
Oct 18, 2021
The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0 Prime

The steely determination behind the WRC’s Solberg 2.0

Two decades after Petter Solberg emerged as a World Rally Championship winner, his son Oliver is ready to take the WRC by storm. Having secured a part-time WRC factory drive for Hyundai in 2022, he's raring to repay the marque's faith in him and follow in his 2003 champion father's footsteps

WRC
Oct 14, 2021
Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season Prime

Analysing the key moves in WRC’s 2022 silly season

The World Rally Championship will step into a new hybrid era in 2022, but the car changes haven't been the only excitement that has built within the paddock. WRC's 'silly season' kicked off in a big way and all the key driver moves for 2022 - of which there are many - look set to shake things up.

WRC
Oct 13, 2021
Why winning in Finland was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age Prime

Why winning in Finland was Evans' true WRC coming-of-age

By his own admission, the fifth World Rally Championship victory of Elfyn Evans' career in Finland last weekend was the drive of his life. Winning five stages in a row and soaking up huge pressure from the Hyundais on the fastest gravel stages around, the Welshman put in a faultless showing that proved what he is truly made of

WRC
Oct 4, 2021
Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant? Prime

Does Neuville have a point with his WRC Rally1 rant?

OPINION: Thierry Neuville's diatribe against the upcoming Rally1-spec machines that will usher in the World Rally Championship's new hybrid era was remarkable in an era where drivers are usually reticent to air their views in public. But are the Belgian's concerns about speed, safety and cost entirely valid?

WRC
Sep 16, 2021
How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains Prime

How Rovanpera reached new heights in the Greek mountains

After Kalle Rovanpera’s historic feat at Rally Estonia, the Finn scaled new heights at the Rally of the Gods with a commanding victory. And this time Toyota’s young star demonstrated why the future is bright with his devastating speed and consistency at the Acropolis Rally

WRC
Sep 13, 2021
The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally Prime

The WRC drivers that came of age at the Acropolis Rally

Five drivers have won first time out at the Rally Acropolis, transcending the tough dirt and gravel Greek roads to cement a place in rallying folklore. Here are three of the first-time winners' tales

WRC
Sep 9, 2021
Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble Prime

Understanding Suninen’s sudden WRC exit gamble

From being considered a likely contender to drive the next-generation M-Sport Ford Puma in 2022, Teemu Suninen's abrupt exit has created plenty of questions. The Finn's bid to become his country's next World Rally Championship winner won't be furthered by being sidelined, but there may be reason behind the decision

WRC
Sep 2, 2021