SS18-19: Heartbreak for Latvala
Lappi leads as Latvala retires in Finland
Esapekka Lappi regained the lead of Neste Rally Finland on Saturday afternoon when team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala retired.
Latvala had won all five speed tests today in his Toyota Yaris to overhaul Lappi and build a 8.5sec advantage. But Latvala’s car ground to a halt just before the midpoint of the famous Ouninpohja special stage and his dreams of a fourth win on his home rally were over.
“Unfortunately I saw the number on the rear window as I drove by,” said Lappi, who started the stage after his fellow Finn. “I didn’t want to be leading like this, it’s really a shame. It’s not nice.”
Television images showed Latvala beating the steering wheel of his Yaris as the car cruised to a stop. It was eventually pushed down an access road. Speculation suggested a possible electrical problem but there was no confirmation from Toyota.
Latvala’s demise ruined Toyota’s hopes of a 1-2-3 finish. Juho Hänninen climbed to second in another Yaris, 54.1sec behind Lappi, but the fight for second and third was a tight one.
Teemu Suninen was 4.3sec behind in a Ford Fiesta, as Finns continued to fill the top three places, and Elfyn Evans was just 6.2sec adrift in a similar car in fourth.
Craig Breen and Thierry Neuville completed the top six, title challenger Neuville’s potential haul of points steadily improving after a torrid weekend in his Hyundai i20.
“We made some changes but the grip levels are higher and the car is going much better in these conditions. In the slippery stages we can still lose time. I enjoyed this one, it’s probably the best stage in the world,” he said.
Ott Tänak was up to eighth in his Fiesta, despite overshooting a chicane in Ouninpohja.
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