There are six stages left to run before the rally finishes tomorrow in Coffs Harbour.
Fourth this morning, Kris Meeke entered into a fascinating head-to-head battle with Andreas Mikkelsen. The two drivers swapped third place on several occasions during the leg. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver was particularly quick on the very long, 48km Nambucca test (SS11), grabbing the second best time on the stage.
He remained fourth after SS14, just 1.5 seconds off the final podium spot, and less than thirty seconds behind the leader. However, a penalty would appear to have dashed his hopes of a top-three finish. Adjudged to have excessively cut across a corner, the Stewards handed him a 61-second penalty, putting him down into fifth place.
Motivated by the idea of showing his potential today, Mads Østberg moved ahead of Hayden Paddon at the start of the afternoon and into sixth place overall. Despite having to contend with a less than ideal road position, the Norwegian was the quickest driver outside of the top four fighting at that stage to win the rally.
Sunday’s final leg features six stages. Parc ferme opens at 6.50am (UTC+10), with crews tackling around a hundred timed sections, including the 9.23km Wedding Bells 2, which will serve as the Power Stage and be televised live. The rally is scheduled to finish in Coffs Harbour from 5.00pm.
Kris Meeke: “I did my best to stay on the pace. The second fastest time on this afternoon’s long stage shows that we have the capacity to be among the frontrunners. But we still have work to do to stay at the front. There are still a hundred or so kilometres to run tomorrow. We are going to keep fighting for every tenth of a second!”
Mads Østberg: “We had to a lot of sweeping today and that was reflected in the timesheets. The aim was to make up ground on Paddon. It was important to get back up to speed, then convert that into times and move back up into sixth position. We’ll need to keep going tomorrow although it’ll be difficult to do better than sixth. We’ll have a better starting position, so we’ll have to try and make the most of it…”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris is continuing to do everything we have asked of him. He’s proving that he is one of the fastest drivers in this second half of the season by fighting at the front. He was less than thirty seconds behind the leader although the pace is incredibly high. As regards Mads, he produced a good performance, despite having a starting position that forced him to do a lot of sweeping.”
Standings after day 2
Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:03:55.3
Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +11.8
Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.3
Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:27.2
Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1.27.8
Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:08.2
Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:15.5
Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:52.4
Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:59.0
Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:59.2…