Australia, SS19-21 : Latvala leads, Ogier looking favourite for the title
Tänak error costs lead
The twists and turns of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship continue and Jari-Matti Latvala has now taken the lead from team-mate Ott Tänak after the Estonian went off the road in the second stage of Sunday morning’s loop. He is now five seconds adrift of the Rally Australia lead with Hayden Paddon chasing the two Toyotas in third. In the fight for the title, Sebastien Ogier remains the favourite in what has been one of the closest title fights in years.
Today’s route may be the shortest with two loops of three stages, but the 84 kilometres of competition presented another fresh challenge as rain fell overnight making for wet, muddy and extremely tricky conditions. Tänak went into the first loop with 21.9 seconds in hand to Latvala but the pace of his team-mate, coupled with a lack of power at one point, saw the Estonian’s lead slashed to 12.6 seconds after the first stage. Tänak then went off in the second and lost his lead to Latvala and trails by five seconds. The changing levels of grip have been a challenge for everyone and Latvala had a bit of moment over a jump in the final stage of the loop. The two Toyota drivers could not back off however with Paddon keeping the pressure on and taking a win in the second stage. The Kiwi driver found it difficult to find a good rhythm in the ever-changing conditions but has settled into a good no-risk speed, eyeing a podium finish.
Mads Østberg made some set-up changes to the C3 WRC which worked on the wetter stages and the Norwegian remains fourth with a 10.5 second advantage over Esapekka Lappi. The third Toyota driver is the team’s ‘back-up’ and he is all too aware he has to finish to help protect Toyota’s bid for the Manufacturers’ Championship. He did however have a half spin in the second stage. Ogier is in a safe rhythm as he chases a sixth world title, admitting the conditions are not the easiest to control but he has team-mate Elfyn Evans in seventh, protecting any challenge from behind. Thierry Neuville remains eighth; he slid wide in the first stage and had another moment in the following test. Teemu Suninen and Craig Breen round off the top 10, Breen having a difficult morning with three offs and a spin.
Alberto Heller continues to head the FIA WRC 2 Championship ahead of Gianluca Linari. Enrico Brazzoli, the sole WRC 3 contender, retired last night for unconfirmed reasons.