11.8 seconds separate the VW teammates.
Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen head the leaderboard but Kris Meeke, still fourth overnight, is in hot pursuit.
Today’s route took in two identical loops of two stages on wider and faster roads and included two runs through the longest stage of the rally, the 48.92 kilometre Nambucca test. At the end of the day, crews then completed another two runs around the super special stage.
Ogier vs. Latvala
Nambucca provided a sharp wake-up call for the contenders first thing this morning and Latvala was instantly on the pace, the Finn fastest through the stage to take the rally lead. He again set fastest time in the following stage but then lost out to Ogier when tyre choice became the deciding factor this afternoon.
While none of the crews selected the optimum four hard tyres, Ogier was closest to getting it right and the Frenchman set fastest time through the second Nambucca run to regain the rally lead. With victories in the following three stages, he takes an 11.8 second advantage into the final day. Despite Latvala’s disappointment over his tyre choice this afternoon, he is still firmly in the fight for the win and has 13.5 seconds in hand to Mikkelsen. The Norwegian has been battling with Meeke throughout the day, the Northern Irish driver climbing into third before again losing the position on the super special stages. They are split by just 1.5 seconds.
The best of the rest
Behind the top four, Mikko Hirvonen has drifted away from the fight for a podium position, the Finn losing nearly 40 seconds with the wrong tyres in Nambucca. He is now 90 seconds away from the lead and in a comfortable fifth ahead of Mads Østberg, who has climbed into sixth today.
Hayden Paddon is still in the lead Hyundai i20 WRC and heads team-mate Thierry Neuville. Elfyn Evans was another to lose out on the tyre choice this afternoon, as was his fellow Fiesta RS WRC driver Robert Kubica, who also suffered with a gear shift problem on the way to the opening stage this morning and went off the road later in the day.