Wales WRC: Latvala takes lead from Ogier
Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala snatched a two-tenth lead in Wales Rally GB from WRC title contender Sebastien Ogier ahead of the final stages.
Latvala – who is in search of a third Wales Rally GB win – closed the gap to 1.7s on the opening stage of the day, Elsi, before grabbing a sensational stage win in Gwydir, which is running as the Power Stage.
On the final stage of the loop, Great Orme Llandudno, Ogier raced into the town’s streets and stole time back from Latvala, ending the loop just 0.2s behind with two stages remaining – one gravel and one asphalt.
The Power Stage wasn't in its usual slot as the last stage of the rally this year, as the organisers have employed new UK closed-road legislation to have the cars finish the Great Orme stage in Llandudno.
The FIA wanted the Power Stage to be representative of the event – i.e. on gravel – so the Gwydir test was given the status instead.
Latvala’s Power Stage win left Toyota teammate Tanak, who dropped out of the lead yesterday, settling for four points with second, while Ogier took three and Neuville two respectively.
If the overall classification remains the same this afternoon, Neuville would hold an 11-point lead over Ogier, with Tanak a further four points back. Ogier had entered the weekend 23 points behind.
Esapekka Lappi delivered a stage win on Elsi to start the day off in the best possible way to secure a podium spot, 17s behind Ogier.
He was helped by a half spin for Craig Breen in the Power Stage and another mistake in Llandudno. The Citroen man now lies fourth, 27.6s behind Lappi.
At the start of the day Hyundai had Andreas Mikkelsen and Paddon ahead of Thierry Neuville in eighth, leading some to speculate Hyundai could employ team orders to jump the Belgian ahead of his teammates for more championship points.
But that was made more difficult by Andreas Mikkelsen challenging Mads Ostberg for fifth, and the manufacturer now has to choose between leaving Mikkelsen free to attempt to bag more manufacturer points in the fight with Ostberg, or aiding Neuville’s title bid by swapping them around.
At the end of the loop, Mikkelsen and Ostberg lie tied for fifth after Mikkelsen hit a bale and a lamppost in the Great Orme Stage, allowing Ostberg to claw back time.
Neuville moved ahead of Paddon on the last stage of the loop to take seventh from his teammate.
The drivers get a fresh set of tyres before another run of Gwydir and Great Orme Llandudno.
Teenager Kalle Rovanpera maintained his lead of over a minute in WRC2, driving a works Skoda Fabia R5. Pontus Tidemand held second over British M-Sport driver Gus Greensmith.
Sébastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia, M-Sport Ford WRT Ford Fiesta WRC
Photo by: M-Sport
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