Jari-Matti Latvala believes he is still in with a good chance of victory on the Rally New Zealand despite being lumbered with the role of road-sweeper ahead of the final day of competition.
While leading by 9.3secs at the end of leg two would be cause for celebration for many drivers, Latvala must now contend with the curse of cleaning the roads for his rivals after being catapulted into the lead on the final stage of the day.
Latvala had been playing catch-up after finishing leg one in fourth place, but one stage win and a further three top three times placed him on the cusp of the leading battle between Mikko Hirvonen and Sebastien Loeb.
However, while Hirvonen and Loeb slowed at the end of the final stage in order to deliberately lose position, Latvala stayed on it to assume the advantage instead.
While he is aware that his lead is somewhat artificial, Latvala is nonetheless refusing to dwell on the prospect of being first out on the road and is quietly confident he can maintain a gap to Hirvonen, Loeb and also Dani Sordo.
"It's a great feeling to be leading tonight but it might bring me some difficulties tomorrow,” he admitted. “I wanted to catch Loeb and I was expecting to be in the top three, but not to be leading tonight. I drove flat out on that final stage and tomorrow I need to do the same and be precise. The biggest thing is not to worry about being first on the road, it's being mentally strong that's the important thing.”
"It's six months since I won in Sweden and it would be great to win here, but it will be a very open day and a big fight. Maybe the rally could be like last year when Ford won by just 0.3sec. It will be really challenging.”