World Rally Championship press release
Saturday midday: Latvala leads in Australia
Jari-Matti Latvala has completed Saturday's opening loop of four stages with a lead of 17.2s over factory Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen after claiming a quartet of stage wins in his Fiesta RS WRC.
Latvala started day two, held in dry conditions, 7.0s behind his fellow Finn in second overall. But with Hirvonen losing time cleaning the stages of the loose surface gravel, Latvala has been able to capitalise.
“I’m enjoying the driving at the moment, it’s feeling absolutely fantastic,” said Latvala. “I’m lucky with my road position because Mikko is cleaning and it’s getting more difficult for Petter [Solberg behind me].”
Hirvonen said: “It’s been alright. Petter hasn’t been catching us so much and that’s the main thing. We didn’t want him to get too close otherwise we would have had to push harder and go flat out. Now we can take it a bit more steady.”
Solberg had been expected to close up to the leading Ford duo this morning but the Citroen privateer has instead dropped back, citing a lack of grip and handling precision aboard his DS3 WRC for his lack of potency.
“I must say I’m struggling, I have a lot of oversteer,” said Solberg, who is 1m02.8s behind Latvala. “I am trying everything but I have no chance. I would like to come closer to the guys but they are pulling away.”
Solberg’s older brother Henning is a comfortable fourth overall in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta, 1m02.0s clear of team-mate Matthew Wilson who spun on stage 11. Team Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi survived a “big moment” on the day’s first stage to maintain his grip on sixth spot.
Michal Kosciuszko has claimed the lead of the Production Car World Rally Championship and moved into seventh overall after Hayden Paddon’s Subaru Impreza suffered a turbo hose failure nearing the end of stage 11.
Unable to make repairs the New Zealander will be anxious to reach the midday service halt at Coffs Coast’s regional airport, having dropped almost 50 seconds behind his Polish rival into eighth position. Australian Brendan Reeves has moved ahead of Ukrainian Oleksandr Saliuk into ninth overall.
Evgeny Novikov, who restarted on day two in his M-Sport Stobart Fiesta following his exit on stage seven, has recorded several impressive stage times in his bid to make up lost ground. Sebastien Ogier, who crashed out of he lead on stage six, is getting closer to the leading pace in his repaired Citroen DS3 WRC.
“We are trying to go to the end to score points for the team,” said Ogier. “I am also able to learn the stages.”
Team-mate Sebastien Loeb admitted he is struggling to get motivated after his retirement on stage four on Friday. He is 19th overall, one place behind British PWRC runner Harry Hunt, in a two-wheel-drive Citroen DS3.
Daniel Oliveira lost 12 minutes when he got stuck on stage 13 in his Brazil World Rally Team MINI John Cooper Works WRC. He has slipped to 25th overall, two places behind Monster World Rally Team driver Ken Block who crashed out on Friday’s first test.