Ford Abu Dhabi's Jari-Matti Latvala has taken the lead on Wales Rally GB, winning all three stages on the repeat loop to build a 6.1 second advantage.

Latvala began the day just 1.1 seconds behind Sebastien Loeb, however, on the first test this morning he overshot a turn and stalled the engine, losing nine seconds. Although there was then pretty much nothing between the two in SS13 and SS14, Latvala returned to the mid-day service 7.3 seconds adrift and seemingly on the back-foot

In the afternoon though he put in a charge and on the second-run through Hafren was 8.6 seconds up on the Frenchman to move into the lead.

The Finn was then quickest again in SS16 and SS17, stretching his cushion by 0.2 seconds in Sweet Lamb 2 and then by 4.6 seconds in Myherin 2. He now looks well placed to finally claim his first victory of the season.

"I was angry with myself this morning," said the columnist. "The first stage started well and I was five seconds up on Loeb, but when I saw the split time I pushed too hard. In a really muddy section I went into a medium left corner too fast and couldn't turn into the following tight left. I realised I wasn't going to stop so I went down the access road and unfortunately stalled the engine.

"It's been 18 months since I last won, but there's a fire inside me and I feel hungry for victory. I must ensure I have the right set-up on the car but I have absolute confidence I will. Tomorrow's stages are good, but they're tricky and I need to be prepared for that. The plan is to be fast, flat-out and tidy."

Loeb meanwhile conceded that the Finn had just been quicker, although he hasn't by any means given up the fight. Indeed, having clinched his eighth WRC drivers' title yesterday, when Mikko Hirvonen retired, he has no reason not to push.

"I think I drove pretty well. Jari-Matti was just that little bit quicker this afternoon. There's no other explanation as I don't reckon the starting order had any influence on the performances," said the Citroen #1. "With a six-second gap everything's still up for grabs though. If I feel confident tomorrow, I'll keep on pushing to try and win this rally."

Mads Ostberg is next up and currently on course for the final place on the podium, now over 2 minutes off the fight for the win and over 2 minutes up on his M-Sport Stobart Ford team-mate, Henning Solberg in fourth. He had some engine problems this afternoon however, and will now have to nurse his Fiesta RS WRC through the final day.

"It was a little bit tricky this afternoon with some engine issues," Ostberg conceded. "The team has now found the problem and we know what it is. But we cannot do anything about it so we will have to run the rest of the rally with the problem. There are a few routines I have to go through before each stage so provided I do that there should be no problems. It's basically up to me now to get to the end of the rally."

Further back, Kris Meeke is the top British driver in fifth and while he lost time with a broken engine mount in the first three stages today, he was back up to speed after lunch, setting two top five times in his MINI WRT John Cooper Works WRC car.

"We sorted the engine problem from the morning at lunch time, which was good as every time I changed gear the engine was moving. We just had to drive through and try to get it back here," Meeke explained. "The second pass today was tricky and very slippery like the surface had been polished. The car is working well on the smooth stuff, but on the ruts we lose a bit of time.

"We shall see tomorrow what happens, as it will be interesting to see if we can catch Henning. I have done tomorrow's stages in the other direction, so maybe I should try reversing through them!"

Fellow countryman Matthew Wilson rounds out the top six, and after posting three seventh best times this morning, he struggled on the repeat loop: "This afternoon has been a bit of a mess," admitted the M-Sport Stobart Ford man. "We had a big moment at the start of the first stage [SS15] so I lost my confidence. The next two were much better but it has been difficult."

Of the rest, Dennis Kuipers, Ott Tanak, Evgeny Novikov and Ken Block hold positions 7 through to 10, the latter currently on course for what will be his second points' finish of the year.

"The grip is constantly changing," Block remarked after SS17. "It's a huge experience for me though and the stages out there are amazing - very enjoyable. I'm looking forward to a Sunday drive tomorrow."

In the PWRC, Patrik Flodin remains unchallenged and is now over 4.5 minutes up on Martin Semerad in second. Benito Guerra is third.

As for retirements, Saturday's action claimed both Petter Solberg and Kimi Raikkonen. Solberg was forced out on the road section to Hafren 1 when a fuel pump broke, while Kimi went out after going into a ditch in SS12.

"Suddenly there was a fire under the bonnet and the flames were all over the windscreen," Petter recounted. "We had no other choice than to jump out of the car and put the fire out. It would have been possible to repair the car and continue tomorrow, but we have decided not to restart. I am obviously very disappointed. This was not the way I hoped to the end the season or this rally. We were in a good position for a podium, and I believe we had the chance for a third."

The event now concludes on Sunday and it is the shortest day of the rally. After leaving Cardiff at 04.45, drivers tackle two identical loops of three stages in the Brecon Beacon mountains and on the Epynt military ranges using a mix of asphalt and gravel roads.

The final stage of the second lap forms the live TV Power Stage with bonus points available to the fastest three drivers. Competitors return to Cardiff for the finish at the city's castle at 14.52 after 84.04 kilometres of action.

Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 17 - Top 10:

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC 2hours 38mins 37.9secs M
2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 06.1secs M
3. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 43.9secs M
4. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 35.0secs
5. Kris Meeke MINI WRT John Cooper Works +06mins 20.0secs
6. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 05.6secs M
7. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07mins 57.4secs M
8. Ott Tanak M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 02.3secs
9. Evgeny Novikov Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +08mins 22.3secs M
10. Ken Block Monster WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +13mins 24.7secs M


11. Armindo Araujo Motorsport Italia MINI John Cooper Works +13mins 54.3secs
12. Kevin Abbring VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +14mins 18.9secs
13. Haydon Paddon Subaru Impreza STi R4 +14mins 24.1secs
14. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza +17mins 22.1secs P
15. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +17mins 25.6secs
34. Dani Sordo MINI WRT John Cooper Works +37mins 15.1secs

PWRC standings after Stage 17 - Top 3:

1. Patrik Flodin Subaru Impreza 2hours 56mins 00.0secs P
2. Martin Semerad Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX +04mins 37.7secs P
3. Benito Guerra Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +06mins 49.9secs P

Notable retirements:

SS1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Hit a wall and ripped off a wheel M*

SS5. Dani Sordo MINI WRT John Cooper Works Went off*
SS5. Peter van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC Went off M
SS6. Martin Prokop Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off*
SS7. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC Went off M
SS7. Bader Al-Jabri Subaru Impreza Went off P
SS11. Jarkko Nikara Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX Went off P

SS12. Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC Broken fuel pump M
SS12/13. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC Went off

*denotes re-started under SupeRally

all times unofficial