Wales Rally GB, SS19-21: Latvala snatches lead
Finn claims Power Stage victory
Jari-Matti Latvala stormed through the live TV Power Stage to grab the lead of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB from Sébastien Ogier during an exhilarating Sunday morning.
After narrowing Ogier’s overnight lead to 1.7sec with second fastest time in the opening Elsi speed test, Latvala threw caution to the wind in the following Gwydir special stage to move into a 3.6sec lead and claim maximum bonus points.
Ogier fought back in the following asphalt Great Orme Llandudno test to claim fastest time and defeat the Finn by 3.4sec – reducing the Toyota Yaris pilot’s advantage to a tantalising 0.2sec with two stages remaining.
The gravel forest roads were treacherously slippery after cold overnight temperatures and Latvala’s face at the finish of Gwydir revealed just how much of a roller coaster ride it was.
“An extremely difficult stage. It was very, very low grip and on the asphalt there was a lot of mud. I went flat over a crest, the car was already sideways and I thought I was going to hit the impact, but luckily I got away with it. It was a big push,” he said.
Ogier, who was third in both forest tests, admitted: “It was a difficult morning, the feeling wasn’t really great in the first two stages so I couldn’t push. The Toyota is very strong but we’re going to keep pushing until the end.”
Esapekka Lappi was fastest in Elsi and the Yaris driver watched the lead battle from a safe third place after Craig Breen’s hopes of a podium took a knock when the Irishman spun his Citroën C3 in Gwydir and dropped 10sec.
Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Mads Østberg to climb to fifth in his Hyundai i20, while team-mate Thierry Neuville’s scramble for vital championship points improved when he moved ahead of Hayden Paddon by a tenth of a second into seventh. He trails Østberg by 6.9sec.
After yesterday’s problems Ott Tänak and Neuville were desperate for Power Stage points to boost their three-way championship battle with Ogier. Tänak fared best to claim four bonus points while Neuville took two, one fewer than Ogier.
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