SS13: Latvala fastest but Ogier in control
Dyfi 2 21.90km
Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala maintained his stage-winning momentum through the repeated Dyfi, but rally leader Sebastien Ogier kept the Finn’s progress to a minimum.
Latvala, lying second overall, credited his improved pace to the same bolder approach to his driving he had tried on the previous stage. “I was too cautious with my notes before and had too many slippery sections marked when in fact it wasn’t that bad,” he said.
“I was losing half a second with each one, and with so many that time quickly added up. Now it’s a lot more comfortable to drive. It’s going much better.”
Ogier was second quickest in his idential Polo R, completing 0.6sec slower than Latvala, and acknowledging that he was keeping a close eye on his team-mate.
“The stage was okay, a good one, but we’re not really in a position where we need to push,” he said. “We just control the gap. We are happy with that.” As he left for the refuel at Ceinws, that gap was exactly 25 seconds.
Third overall, Ford Fiesta RS driver Thierry Neuville was another to be watching his mirrors as he sought to defend his position from a hard-charging Andreas Mikkelsen.
Neuville began Dyvi 23.8sec ahead of the Norwegian, having lost 4.2sec of his cushion on the previous stage. Over the 21km stage, and without the benefit of split times that weren’t working in his car, he extended the gap to 25.2sec.
“I drove a bit faster because he’s pushing and I want to have this gap,” said Neuville, who is on course to finish the season as runner-up in the drivers’ championship. “It’s difficult without split times, it’s hard to know where you are – which is a bit strange - but I’m enjoying these roads a lot.”
Mikkelsen was fourth quickest. “Another clean stage, no problems, no moments. I tried to be more aggressive with the car and play with it in these conditions,” he said.
Mads Ostberg was just 1.1sec slower than Mikkelsen, to remain less than 11 seconds adrift in the overall standings. But a downbeat Ostberg felt the hard-packed state of the repeated stages was blunting his attack.
“We are still going at quite similar speeds, and after some small adjustments my car is going a bit better, but when it’s slippery I have no chance,” Ostberg explained. “It’s the polished rocks. I don’t know how he’s getting traction on them because I have no chance. I’m attacking everywhere, but one kilometre of these polished rocks and I’m three seconds down.”
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