Australia WRC: Neuville still leading, Breen crashes heavily
Wet conditions helped Jari-Matti Latvala take a small bite out of Thierry Neuville's lead at Rally Australia on Sunday morning, while Craig Breen's rally came to a spectacular end with a rollover on the Bucca stage.
Overnight rain carried into the morning for the final day of running, penalising those further down the road order and shrinking the gaps between the frontrunners over the first pair of stages.
Neuville's overall lead is now 14.7s over Jari-Matti Latvala, having been as low as 9.9s after the second of the three tests in the loop.
Unable to profit from the tightening up in the order was Craig Breen, who went into the loop locked in a tense battle for fourth with Hayden Paddon.
The Citroen driver rolled spectacularly early in the 30-kilometre Bucca stage, his rally over on the spot. He and co-driver Scott Martin emerged from the destroyed C3 unhurt.
Weather conditions began to go downhill midway through the opening stage of the day, which meant Elfyn Evans was a surprise pacesetter on the first run through Pilbara – a rare glimpse of pace on a rally where he's struggled with his DMACK tyres.
The frontrunners were just fourth and fifth quickest, Latvala leading Neuville by a second to bring the overall gap back to 19 seconds.
On the second stage of the day the rain really began to play havoc with the leaders. Paddon led the Bucca stage comfortably over Esapekka Lappi, while Neuville was just seventh quickest, a whopping 35.9s off the pace.
In the process he also dropped 9s to Latvala.
Conditions stabilised slightly for the final stage of the loop, a first pass through the Wedding Bells test. That helped Neuville go fastest over Latvala by 4.7s and ease the gap back out to the best part of 15s.
Ott Tanak is still in the hunt for second, sitting 11.3s behind Latvala after running in the middle of the order through the wet stages.
Paddon is now comfortably in fourth with Breen out of the rally.
Sebastien Ogier is fifth, the World Champion hit with a one-minute penalty for checking into the Bucca stage early.
Citroen endured a horror start to the final day of running, losing two cars in the first two stages.
Even before Breen made his spectacular exit from the event on the Bucca stage, Stephane Lefebvre was out of the running. The Frenchman swiped a tree on the Pilbara stage, damaging his Citroen enough to require a direct return to the service park.
He'd been sitting seventh, splitting Ogier and Evans, before the shunt.
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