Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala has taken over at the head of the pack on the Acropolis Rally of Greece, after overnight leader, Evgeny Novikov picked up a puncture in SS4 and slipped back.
Latvala began the second leg in third place, 39.1 seconds adrift of Novikov and 8.8 seconds off Dani Sordo in P2. However in the opening test of the day he immediately moved into second, setting the joint quickest time with Novikov.
The Finn then gained another place in Gyhmno, when his Russian rival had to stop and replace the right rear tyre, losing over four minutes. That left Latvala with a 15.6 second lead, something he increased to 18.8 seconds in SS5, when he took his third stage win in a row.
Although Sordo fought back in SS6 and was fastest, Latvala was only 0.1 seconds slower, and he now heads back to the mid-day service with an 18.7 second cushion.
“Everything is alright,” Latvala remarked after SS6. “I hope it won't rain this afternoon. I am pretty happy with the car now. We could make a little bit of an improvement with the differential, but it is OK. Sometimes the car, coming out of corners isn't behaving exactly as I would like and is understeering a bit, but it is fine.”
Qatar World Rally Team runner Thierry Neuville meanwhile is on course for the final spot on the podium, albeit 52.1 seconds off Sordo – and over 1.5 minutes up on team-mate, Nasser Al-Attiyah in fourth.
“I think that we had a nice mix of stages this morning – some are very rough some a very fast and there is one with a very sandy, twisting section. There are a lot of different stages so you can never have the perfect set-up for all of them but so far I have been happy with the car," Neuville said.
“We had a small problem with the brakes because I over-heated them yesterday, but other than that everything has been OK and I think that we are driving well. Evgeny was very unlucky because he was setting great pace at the front of the field. But this rallying and, unfortunately, sometimes these things can happen.”
Al-Attiyah moved ahead of VW third driver, Andreas Mikkelsen in the final test of the loop, as the latter was slowed by mechanical issues: “We didn't have brakes - not even the handbrake,” Mikkelsen confirmed. “We were trying to reduce speed [by] downshifting gears. I am so glad that we are going to the service now.”