SS8: Shrewd Sordo puts Latvala first
Colldejou (asphalt) 26.48km
As the stage that determined the running order for Sunday’s competition, the repeat of Colldejou was always going to be the place where road order tactics came into play, so it was no surprise when Dani Sordo slowed to hand Latvala the lead.
Ironically, Sordo warned before the rally that forcing the leader after SS8 to drive first through Sunday’s gravel stages would lead to deliberate slowing, and in the event he made the most from the strategy.
Sebastien Ogier was first to complete the test which, as the Power Stage, offered three bonus points to the fastest driver. Having lost almost a minute with his earlier puncture, Ogier had no option than to push his Volkswagen Polo R flat-out.
Next through was Latvala, who also pushed at the maximum, but was two-tenths slower than Ogier. With a chance of beating Thierry Neuville to second in the drivers’ championship, Latvala’s frustration was clear. “I lost to Ogier and I should have been quicker. I need the Power Stage points,” he said.
And with Sordo following him through, Latvala was in no doubt that he would be first through Sunday’s stages, acting as Sordo’s road sweeper. Asked if he could still win from first on the road, Latvala replied: “We’ll see, but I think I’ll need some help with the weather.”
Sure enough Sordo slowed his Citroen, to hand Latvala a slender 1.2sec lead. “I lost a little bit at the end so I will be in a better position,” he said. “All I can do is try my best tomorrow. The tactics really started yesterday and they have gone okay, I’m happy. Can I win? Of course I hope so. I will do my best.”
In a further blow to Latvala, Neuville was the stage winner, with the Power Stage points making his position of championship runnier-up more secure. "Compared to this morning the feeling in the car is completely different,” he said. “The set-up is right, I have confidence that the car will turn in and I can drive normally.”
Evgeny Novikov was fifth-fastest to move up to fifth overall, ahead of Mikko Hirvonen who struggled for grip. “I destroyed my tyres on the long stage,” explained Hirvonen. “I tried to take it carefully but I was sliding all the way through.”
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