Midday wrap: Latvala leads at Friday's midpoint After four stages run in typically Welsh weather, Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala is on top of the Rally Great Britain - although the fight at the front remains incredibly close. The Finn won two...
Midday wrap: Latvala leads at Friday's midpoint
After four stages run in typically Welsh weather, Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala is on top of the Rally Great Britain - although the fight at the front remains incredibly close.
The Finn won two out of three stages this morning to open up a lead of 1.4 seconds over 2010 World Champion Sebastien Loeb, having lost his initial advantage after his Focus's engine hesitated for 500 metres following a watersplash in the Sweet Lamb stage.
"That wasn't a good moment, but luckily the time lost wasn't huge," he said. "It's really difficult as the grip is massively inconsistent. Sometimes it is OK, but at other times there is no grip at all."
Loeb started first on the road by virtue of his championship lead but for once this turned out to be a slight advantage, as in the damp conditions the stages gradually became softer and more degraded with each car that passed.
Having briefly claimed the lead after Latvala's engine mishap on SS3, the Frenchman is now relishing the prospect of the battle ahead. "It's a close fight and it's a lot of fun," he said. "I'm not sure if it's actually an advantage to be first though. I don't feel like it is: the grip is very uncertain."
Multiple Rally Great Britain winner Petter Solberg is down to third following a gear selection problem. "I try to get fourth gear but it's doing strange things like giving me fifth," said the Norwegian. "I lost a bit of time, but there is still everything to fight for. When things are going well, I've got a really good feeling."
The top three are in fact covered by less than two seconds, with Sebastien Ogier a further five seconds down the road in fourth. "I'm trying to keep up with the leaders, but it's not easy," said Ogier, who is in the factory Citroen C4 as Loeb's team mate for this event. "I have to decide how many risks I want to take."
Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen are fifth and sixth separated by just two seconds, with both drivers making some small set-up changes during the remote service halt at Builth Wells.
One person who found out just how inconsistent the grip could be was Matthew Wilson, who spun on the opening stage this morning and then took a while to get going again after his engine stalled.
Former Grand Prix World Champion Kimi Raikkonen was taking no risks on his first Rally Great Britain, dropping time to the frontrunners on all the stages but ending the opening loop in 10th. "This is even more of a tricky event than I thought it would be," said Raikkonen. "I'm really not confident when the grip is changing all the time. So it's best just to play it safe."
The Super 2000 battle is led by Ford Fiesta driver Jari Ketomaa from Skoda's Patrik Sandell, while in the Production Car Championship battle Patrik Flodin currently holds the category lead in his Subaru - although Mitsubishi driver Armindo Araujo is still on track to lift his second consecutive title.