Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala has taken the early lead on Wales Rally GB this morning, moving to the forefront with a storming time in Myherin 1.
Latvala began with the third best time in SS1, Dyfnant 1, 1.6 seconds off his team-mate, Petter Solberg, who set the top time. The Finn then had a scare in SS2 though, running wide early on in the stage and clipping a tree stump, consequently he was only fifth fastest, losing another 2.8 seconds to Solberg, who was again quickest.
However in SS3, Latvala put in a real charge, completing the test in 15 minutes 55.1 seconds, 5.4 seconds quicker than Loeb and 9.4 seconds up on Solberg. Latvala now heads into the mid-day remote service zone in Newton with a 3.3 second advantage over Loeb, while Solberg has slipped to third.
“Myherin is my favourite stage of the rally and I pushed really hard,” Latvala said. “The car worked well, especially in the fast and flowing sections. There's no need for any changes and now I must try to keep this speed to stay in the fight for victory. Conditions are typical of Rally GB. It may be two months earlier this year, but the roads are damp and wet after the rain.”
“It was slippery and I didn't want to take any crazy risks," Solberg added. "I drove at a fast, but steady, pace and won two stages so I'm happy and feeling comfortable. Last year I didn't drive Myherin so I was a little rusty there, but I'm just trying to stay focused and keep everything as calm as I can."
Behind, Mads Ostberg is fourth in his Adapta WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC car. Ostberg ran second initially this morning, but slipped back in SS2 and SS3, complaining that his old pacenotes weren't good enough for Myherin.
Mikko Hirvonen completes the top five, 3 seconds off P4 and already 15.1 seconds off the leader. He felt his Citroen DS3 WRC car was too stiff for the opening test and then ran wide in a few places in SS3.
M-Sport Ford WRT trio Ott Tanak, Evgeny Novikov and Matthew Wilson lie in sixth, seventh and ninth respectively, with Thierry Neuville, who is running first on the road, in eighth. Tanak struggled with power steering issues this morning and is now almost 30 seconds off Hirvonen.
Martin Prokop rounds out the provisional points scorers, despite reporting issues with his gearbox.
Of the rest, WRC MINI Team Portugal newbie Chris Atkinson lies eleventh on his first outing on gravel with the MINI John Cooper Works WRC car, then comes VW Motorsport's Sebastien Ogier in his Skoda Fabia S2000, ahead of S2000 leader, Craig Breen and the second VW-run Fabia S2000 of Kevin Abbring.
The action now continues this afternoon with a repeat-run through this morning's three tests.
SS4, Dyfnant 2, is due to start at 13.13 hours local time.
Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 3 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC 42mins 39.2secs
2. Sebastien Loeb
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 03.3secs
3. Petter Solberg
Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 05.3secs
4. Mads Ostberg
Adapta WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 12.1secs
5. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 15.1secs
6. Ott Tanak
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 44.6secs
7. Evgeny Novikov
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 50.2secs
8. Thierry Neuville
Citroen Junior WRT DS3 WRC +01mins 19.3secs
9. Matthew Wilson
M-Sport Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 41.0secs
10. Martin Prokop
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01mins 54.5secs
11. Chris Atkinson
WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC +02mins 05.8secs
12. Sebastien Ogier
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +02mins 21.1secs
13. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Citroen DS3 WRC +02mins 50.8secs
14. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta S2000 +02mins 52.3secs
15. Kevin Abbring
VW Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 +03mins 02.4secs
SWRC standings after Stage 3 - Top 3:
1. Craig Breen
Ford Fiesta S2000 45mins 31.5secs
2. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta S2000 +00mins 40.9secs
3. Tom Cave
Proton Satria Neo S2000 +01mins 25.6secs
SS2. Per-Gunnar Andersson
Proton Satria Neo S2000 Lost a wheel
all times unofficial