SS6: Ogier leads while Hirvonen rolls
Sebastien Ogier leads at the midpoint of Friday’s competition on Wales Rally GB, the Frenchman emerging unscathed from a trio of forest stages in mid-Wales that claimed two World Rally Cars.
Ogier heads to the remote 15-minute service in Newtown with a lead of 13.5sec from his Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. Ford Fiesta RS pilot Thierry Neuville is third, 21.9sec further back.
Ogier began today’s second leg of the rally as overnight leader, and moved further ahead with a fastest time through the opening Hafren test.
But Ogier’s stage dominance ended there, with a determined Dani Sordo taking fastest time through Sweet Lamb (SS5) and an increasingly confident Jari-Matti Latvala quickest on the last of the trio, Myherin (SS6).
Despite the rapid competition, Ogier seemed relaxed when he reached the Myherin stop control in his Volkswagen Polo R. “It’s okay, but I had no split times in the stage and I fell into the wrong driving rhythm,” he said. “No alarm. Its not too bad, okay, losing five seconds to Jari-Matti is not good, but it’s okay.”
Myherin is Latvala’s favourite Welsh stage and marked a turning point in the Finn’s performance after a cautious start today. “I really pushed hard, there’s not so much left to give,” he said. "I found it hard at the beginning where it was very slippery but I got a good feeling as things went on. The car feels great, I went a bit softer with the set-up. Maybe I just took too long to wake up today?”
Neuville is 35.4sec off the lead and hasn’t been entirely comfortable on the muddy, gravel stages – managing only seventh fastest through Myherin. “I don’t know why, but I’m getting too much wheelspin,” he explained. “I’m staying on the road, just not going forward. It’s very slippery, and in the beginning I saw the splits and didn’t understand them. After that I slowed the rhythm and tried to learn the roads, which are all new for me.”
Better known for his speed on asphalt, Citroen DS3 driver Sordo was the surprise of the morning, but with his pre-rally five-minute penalty he remains way down the standings in 16th.
After a confidence boost on Sweet Lamb, a stage he knows well, Sordo looked on course for another top time on Myherin. Just one second down to Latvala at the 14km point, the Spaniard then had to slow suddenly to avoid the wreckage of his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen’s rolled DS3 which had come to a stop in the middle of the road.
Hirvonen had been fourth before the crash, which was described by Sordo as ‘a big one’. His exit capped a miserable morning for Citroen that began with the retirement of World Rally Car debutant Robert Kubica with a roll on SS4.
Mads Ostberg is fourth, 22sec behind Neuville, after a morning spent experimenting with different settings on his Fiesta RS to try and find more grip.
Evgeny Novikov is fifth, 10.7sec further back, and reporting ongoing launch control problems. Andreas Mikkelsen is sixth, with Martin Prokop seventh.
In WRC 2, Welshman Elfyn Evans leads by 9.5sec, but Finland’s Jari Ketomaa narrowed the gap slightly during the morning loop. Mark Higgins is a further 16.8sec back in third. All three drivers are at the wheel of Ford Fiesta R5 cars.
Several drivers had an interrupted run through the opening Hafren stage after Robert Kubica’s roll and received notional times. However, Higgins was fastest through Sweet Lamb and Ketomaa topped the time charts in Myherin.
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