SS9-10: Latvala crash hands advantage to Ogier
Wales Rally GB
Jari-Matti Latvala’s victory bid at Wales Rally GB ended in Saturday morning’s muddy opening special stage when he went off the road into a ditch and dropped more than three minutes.
The Finn, who restarted today just 6.6sec behind Volkswagen team-mate Sébastien Ogier, made a mistake 6.8km into Clocaenog East and was lifted back onto the road by spectators.
“It was a slippery corner and I was a little late on the braking and stalled the engine. I tried to turn into the bend but the car wouldn’t restart and we went backwards into a ditch and got stuck,” he explained.
His Polo R’s rear spoiler was lost in the impact and that affected the downforce through the next stage and he was only 14th fastest after spinning.
Latvala’s crash left Ogier with a 1min 12.4sec lead over Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Fiesta RS and the Frenchman acknowledged his approach would change.
“Of course, it’s a different rally for me. My lead is really good but we still have to drive without mistakes and it’s still not an easy job in front of me,” he said.
Hirvonen heads Kris Meeke’s Citroen DS3 by 3.6sec, with Mads Østberg a further 3.8sec behind, but Hirvonen admitted he wasn’t totally comfortable on the long, fast straights and hard braking. “No big mistakes but the small ones are costing me time,” he said.
The early starters enjoyed the best of the conditions and Andreas Mikkelsen was fastest in both stages in his Polo R, although Meeke set top three times in both.
Henning Solberg overshot two junctions in the opening stage while Thierry Neuville went one better and missed three junctions in the following test in his Hyundai i20. Robert Kubica emerged from Clocaenog Main with oil leaking from the rear of his Ford Fiesta RS.
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