SS12: Confidence returns for Latvala
Same stage but a very different demeanour from Jari-Matti Latvala.
After the first run through Gartheiniog this morning, Latvala cut a deflated figure. Low in confidence and only fifth fastest, he was not happy but just two hours later the buzz was back as Latvala set fastest time in his Volkswagen Polo R.
He edged team-mate Sebastien Ogier by just seven-tenths of a second, but the time gap didn’t matter to Latvala. He was buoyant again.
“It’s getting better. I had a slow morning and I couldn’t get the feeling. I had marked too many slippery places in my notes in the recce and I was too cautious. I’m here, the notes are fixed and it’s easier to drive,” he explained.
Ogier was calm and collected as he reflected on his 25.6sec lead. “There’s still a fight and Jari-Matti is still pushing. I’m in no drama, just doing the job, taking no crazy risks and driving to control the gap,” said the Frenchman.
Many felt the stage was even more slippery in the second pass. But it didn’t deter Andreas Mikkelsen whose experience of Wales from the early days of his career helped provide his German team with a 1-2-3 finish in the stage after completing 1.9sec behind Latvala.
“Everything is OK, no problems. Conditions are tricky and I’m trying to keep on the road but no moments and I’m happy with my driving,” said Mikkelsen, whose Polo R was missing its rear bumper.
Fourth was Thierry Neuville, whose advantage over Mikkelsen in third overall has been eroded to 23.8sec. “I’m driving at my own rhythm. I have no splits so I didn’t see that Andreas was pushing. I’m just driving at my speed and I think we will get through,” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot.
Mads Ostberg was fifth but the Norwegian admitted he couldn’t match Mikkelsen’s speed in their fight for fourth overall. “We’re driving really well. There are not a lot of places that I could gain any more pace if I drove the stage one more time, but we’re losing time and I don’t know why,” he said.
Sixth was the sole surviving Citroen DS3 of Dani Sordo. Having overhauled Elfyn Evans for seventh as he recovers from his five minute penalty, the Spaniard’s next target is Martin Prokop. The Czech driver is 1min 21.2sec ahead.
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