Ford's Jari-Matti Latvala has finished day two of Wales Rally GB with a comfortable 24.5 second lead and he now looks well poised to take his second win of the 2012 World Rally Championship season.
Latvala started Saturday's action with a 12.1 second cushion and he all but doubled it this morning on the first loop before then maintaining that gap this afternoon on the repeat runs. The Finn then ended the day on a high by taking his seventh stage win of the event in SS13, the short 3.04 km Celtic Manor test, and will now go into Sunday's final leg with a 24.5 second gap over team-mate, Petter Solberg.
“It was the best super special stage that I've driven. Winning was like getting a hole-in-one!" Latvala said. "I had another superb day but I can't afford to relax. If the weather turns bad tomorrow then the roads will be slippery and a 25 second lead can disappear easily in such conditions. I've always enjoyed this rally and perhaps it's the event where the set-up of the car and my driving come together best.”
Solberg meanwhile has resisted Sebastien Loeb and while the Frenchman is still a threat, just 6.4 seconds back in P3, 'Hollywood' will be determined to hang onto second tomorrow to give Ford the 1-2.
“I worked hard today to keep my rivals behind and I must do the same tomorrow," Petter confirmed. "First and second would be so important for Ford and both Jari-Matti and I must ensure we maintain these positions to the finish."
“I managed my tyres as efficiently as possible during the afternoon,” Loeb added. “I lost two or three seconds on the second loop, but I'm still in the running for second place. As I often say when I have a bit of a lead on the Saturday evening, the rally isn't finished yet! And even if I finish third, that wouldn't be a bad result in terms of the World Championships.”
Mads Ostberg is next up and fourth, after another impressive day, including setting the pace in SS7 this morning.
“This afternoon has been a little bit tricky. We ran with two spares but I know from previous events that we are struggling a bit with that," Ostberg said. “We had to try to do something in service and we changed the car a little and I changed the car a little between each stage also. But still I wasn't able to find a good set-up with the two spares so it was not brilliant.
“OK, it was not a disaster but we haven't been able to take more time off the cars in front which is what we wanted to do. But we have been taking more time off Mikko so I am pleased with that at least.”
Mikko Hirvonen rounds out the top-five, although the event, thus far, has given him little to smile about: “I did my best, I never stopped pushing. We have to keep working to try and understand why we aren't quicker in tricky, low-grip conditions," Hirvonen explained.