Latvala still leads in Finland with two stages left

News after SS17

By Franck Drui

31 July 2010 - 14:01
Latvala still leads in Finland with (…)

Jari-Matti Latvala is two stages away from winning Neste Oil Rally Finland for the first time. But with the factory Ford driver’s advantage standing at 10.6 seconds after SS17, the World Rally Championship event is set for a thrilling climax in Jyvaskyla this evening with Sebastien Ogier looking menacing for Citroen.

Latvala started Saturday’s first stage leading Petter Solberg by 9.1s, mindful of the challenge he would face by running first on the road through the high speed gravel tests.

Although overnight rain helped to compact the road surface on some stages, others were unaffected by the deluge and stayed largely dry, which hampered Latvala and Solberg.

“Ogier is pushing hard so we will see what happens,” said Latvala. “We will not be comfortable until we are over the finish line and there is still a long way to go.”

Solberg suffered more than Latvala on the slippery surface and has slipped from second to fourth as the crews head back to service in Jyvaskyla following the second and final run through the Surkee stage.

The Norwegian was unhappy with the handling of his privately-run C4 following before a damper change at midmorning service and also said his lack of knowledge of Saturday’s stages, some of which he hasn’t tackled competitively before, was holding him back.

Ogier, who holds second overall in his works C4, said he had resisted the temptation to go on full attack in order to respect his team’s wishes to achieve a strong finish. But his obvious talents and more advantageous road position have handed him a shot at victory.

Citroen team leader and world champion Sebastien Loeb demoted Solberg into fourth with the fastest time through the first Himos stage (SS16) but is 23.6s off the lead and comfortably clear of Citroen Junior Team driver Dani Sordo, who is fifth overall.

Matthew Wilson had a replacement steering rack fitted to his Stobart M-Sport Ford Focus at final service on Friday but still reported a slight steering issue through Saturday morning’s stages. He is sixth and just over 30 seconds ahead of Mads Ostberg, who has battled back to seventh after stopping to change a broken wheel on Friday morning.

Four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen is eighth after reporting a trouble-free run in his Focus. The 51-year-old, who has come out of retirement to contest Rally Finland for the final time this season, made one blemish when he jumped a stage start on Friday and was handed a 10-second penalty for his trouble.

Super 2000 World Rally Championship leader Juho Hanninen is ninth overall with P-G Andersson second in the category in 10th after Matti Rantanen retired when he hit a rock and tore a wheel off his Skoda Fabia this morning.

After stage 17, Pirelli Star Driver Ott Tanak is comfortably ahead in the Production Car World Rally Championship classification in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.

Kimi Raikkonen was in contention for a top 10 finish only to go off into a ditch on a right-hander on Saturday’s first stage. He was able to regain the road thanks to the intervention of several spectators but lost almost 10 minutes in the process.

Following service in Jyvaskyla, crews will tackle two more stages before the finish later this evening. The top six drivers will run in reverse order over the final two tests.

Overall standings after SS17:

01 Jari-Matti LATVALA Ford Focus WRC 2h11m13.0s
02 Sébastien OGIER Citroën C4 WRC +10.6s
03 Sébastien LOEB Citroën C4 WRC +23.6s
04 Petter SOLBERG Citroën C4 WRC +29.0s
05 Dani SORDO Citroën C4 WRC +1m16.7s
06 Matthew WILSON Ford Focus WRC +5m00.0s
07 Mads ÖTSBERG Subaru Impreza WRC +5m32.7s
08 Juha KANKKUNEN Ford Focus WRC +6m16.1s
09 Juho HÄNNINEN Skoda Fabia S2000 +7m35.9s
10 Per Gunnar ANDERSSON Skoda Fabia S2000 +8m26.5s
11 Patrik SANDELL Skoda Fabia S2000 +9m02.8s
12 Toni GARDEMEISTER Ford Fiesta S2000 +9m22.1s
13 Martin PROKOP Ford Fiesta S2000 +10m56.2s
14 Mattias THERMAN Ford Focus WRC +11m24.2s
15 Marko KAKKO Ford Fiesta S2000 +12m37.0s



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