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.”