Volkswagen driver Jari-Matti Latvala pulled away on the Acropolis Rally of Greece this afternoon, more than tripling his mid-day cushion over his nearest rival, Dani Sordo.

Latvala moved to the fore this morning when overnight leader, Evgeny Novikov hit a sharp rock in SS4 and broke a wheel. The Finn then proceeded to build an 18.7 second lead, winning three of the morning's four stages.

On the repeat loop he continued to consolidation his position and despite some rain, he won SS7, and set the second best time in SS8 and SS9. He then finished the day with the third fastest time in SS10 and will now go into the final leg with a 1 minute 4.1 second advantage.

"It's been by far the best day for me since I joined Volkswagen," Latvala reflected. "If you'd told me after yesterday's qualifying washout that we'd be leading the rally today, I would never have believed you. But that's the way it goes in the 'Acropolis': something can happen any time and the tiniest mistake can cost a driver dear.

"We tried to put a lot of pressure on the competition today without risking too much ourselves. Once we were at the front of the pack, it was all about securing our lead and keeping our concentration. All in all, we put in a very sound performance and so did our team because our Polo worked perfectly. But as I say, the 'Acropolis' is unpredictable: we haven't won yet and we'll be looking to make it across the finishing line with first place securely in the bag tomorrow."

Sordo meanwhile is satisfied to be second in his Citroen DS3 WRC: "I would like to be closer to the top," he admitted back in service, "but it's not the rally to take risks. We can push, but today Latvala was faster and so it would stupid to do so. Tomorrow I don't want to make any mistakes."

Thierry Neuville rounds out the provisional podium for the Qatar World Rally Team, having set top-six times in his M-Sport-run Fiesta RS WRC in every single stage - including a third fastest time this morning in SS4. He is 39 seconds behind Sordo and over 2 minutes up on his team-mate, Nasser Al-Attiyah in fourth.

"There are no secrets," Neuville noted. "We need to stay on the road now and keep the car okay. In the afternoon I was feeling better with the car and I always knew what to do. Right now I am not thinking about the podium. It's a long day tomorrow. It will be hard to push so I will try to maintain my position."

"The day was good," Al-Attiyah added. "We are in fourth position and are quite happy with our performance. The afternoon stages were good. Everything worked very well - the car and the tyres. Tomorrow is another day. We will drive with the same speed to keep the fourth position. In the last stage it was raining a lot and we took the chance to push."

Behind, Andreas Mikkelsen trails Al-Attiyah, 25.7 seconds back. The VW third driver had been more than 2 minutes in front, but brake problems in SS6 dropped him back. He closed back in this afternoon and was third fastest in SS7. However a puncture in the final test cost him valuable time.

"The stages today were very rough. We lost our brakes [this morning] and in the afternoon we had a puncture [too]. There were some good stages but very rough. But that's rallying in Greece. Tomorrow anything can happen. We will keep pushing and see what we can do," vowed the Norwegian.

Mads Ostberg completes the top six, having moved ahead of Martin Prokop in the final test of the day. Like Mikkelsen though, he also had his problems: "It has been a tough day, but better than yesterday. We lost some minutes due to the steering arm problem [in SS5] and a puncture. It is not catastrophe but still not the day I wanted. Anyway sixth position is okay."

Further back, Mikko Hirvonen lies eighth, despite two punctures, while Novikov is now in ninth place and Sebastien Ogier, who re-started under the Rally 2 rules, has broke back into the points and is tenth.

"In the afternoon the grip was better although we were first on the road. It was difficult to drive fast because of that. In the last stage we had less of a disadvantage because it was wet and that's why we were fastest. We tried to drive and have no problems," Ogier noted.

In WRC2, Robert Kubica continues to lead, now over 2 minutes up on Yuriy Protasov. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari is third in the class: "It was a long day," said former F1 star, Kubica. "The first stage of the second loop was extreme. But it's good experience for me. We made the right choices, we took no risks, we enjoyed it and it was a positive and productive day. Tomorrow we have to bring the car home. For me the feeling that I get here is more important than points."

As for retirements, the biggest scalp was Khalid Al-Qassimi. He had been running ninth, but crashed out in his Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT-run DS3 WRC in SS8.

The event now concludes on Sunday, with two stages on the bill, both to be run twice.

SS11, the 11.47 km Pissia 1 test, is due to start at 10.23 hours local time [08.23 hours UK time].

Acropolis Rally of Greece: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hours 32mins 42.8secs M
2. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +1m 04.1s M
3. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 43.1s M
4. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +3m 46.1s M
5. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +4m 11.8s M
6. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 26.3s M
7. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 50.3s M
8. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +7m 52.2s M
9. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8mins 16.1secs M
10. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +10m 29.5s M

Others

11. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +11m 02.2s WRC2
12. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta RRC +13m 22.4s WRC2
13. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +13m 26.8s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):

1. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC 2hours 43mins 45.0secs WRC2
2. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 20.2s WRC2
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 24.6s WRC2

Notable retirements:

SS1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Technical problem M*

SS8. Khalid Al-Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Rolled. M

*denotes able to re-start under the Rally 2 regulations

all times unofficial

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment