SS14: Puncture wrecks Latvala’s hopes

Ford driver drops out of lead battle in Greece due to tyre damage

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By www.wrc.com

26 May 2012 - 15:15
SS14: Puncture wrecks Latvala's (...)

Jari-Matti Latvala’s bid for victory on the Acropolis Rally has suffered a huge setback on stage 14 of the FIA World Rally Championship powered by Nokia qualifier.

Latvala started the test 2.2s behind eight-time world champion Sebastien Loeb but picked up a slow right-rear puncture early in the stage, eventually having to stop to change the damaged wheel approximately four kilometres from the finish.

The factory Ford driver was 3m23.4s slower than stage winner Loeb completing the run and now slips to fourth, 3m32.6s behind his Citroen rival. Petter Solberg, who was second fastest, 1.8s down on Loeb, is now Ford’s big hope for victory with the Norwegian 21.9s down on top spot.

“It was my mistake,” said Latvala. “I was slightly wide at the beginning of the stage and hit a bank. There was a little touch but there was something sharp [in the bank] and it broke the tyre. It’s very disappointing. Normally with a slow puncture I should be able to drive for quite a long time but unfortunately I broke the wheel and we had to stop to change it.”

Mikko Hirvonen was third quickest through the stage and climbs to third in the overall standings following Latvala’s woe. The Finn reported overshooting a junction in his Citroen.

With replacement driveshafts fitted to his Adapta Fiesta at midday service in Loutraki, Mads Ostberg has closed to within 0.8s of fifth-placed Martin Prokop, who said he wasn’t prepared to do battle with his Norwegian rival.

“I couldn’t fight with him because I saw his speed in the morning,” said Prokop. “The stones are too much for the car in this stage so I have to slow down.”

Nasser Al-Attiyah reached the stage finish with his Qatar World Rally Team Citroen running in rear-wheel-drive only after a front driveshaft broke during the stage. “We’ll see if we can continue - we phone the team now to check,” said Al-Attiyah.

Thierry Neuville edged closer to Volkswagen Motorsport drivers Sebastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen despite not taking any risks in his Citroen Junior World Rally Team DS3 WRC.

Armindo Araujo said his MINI John Cooper Works WRC was running faultlessly as he continues to maintain his cautious approach in an effort to ensure a finish.

Daniel Oliveira, running first on the road in his Brazil World Rally Team Fiesta, said the stage was rougher than before but added that he felt the grip level had improved.

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