Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala looks poised to take victory on the Acropolis Rally of Greece and following the opening loop this morning he has increased his advantage.
Latvala began the final leg 1 minute 4.1 seconds up Citroen's Dani Sordo and despite taking it relatively easy through SS11 and SS12, posting fifth and fourth fastest times respectively, he still gained time, as his Spanish rival also opted to take it cautiously.
Latvala will now go into the final loop – a repeat run through this morning's two tests - with a 1 minute 19.7 second cushion.
“No problems - a good feeling,” Latvala said post-SS12. “There are quite a lot of ruts already in there. I don't think it will get any worse now as most of the damage has been done already on Friday, so we'll see how it goes this afternoon. Not sure if I want to push on the Power stage when we come back this afternoon - we'll see!”
Thierry Neuville meanwhile remains third for the Qatar World Rally Team, 37.4 seconds off P2, while VW third driver Andreas Mikkelsen was the sole mover in the top ten, getting back ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah and up into fourth place, after setting the pace in both SS11 and SS12.
“It's quite rough in places,” Mikkelsen said. “[But] I tried to get some speed [and go fast] and protect the car. It's not easy. I made three or four mistakes, but apart from this, it was okay.”
“I didn't take any risks,” Al-Attiyah added. “I knew Andreas would push [and try and get fourth]. I can't go faster. I stay behind and wait for a mistake from him.”
Behind, Mads Ostberg is sixth, and despite a few spins, is happy with his Qatar M-Sport WRT-run Fiesta RS WRC car: “It's working a lot better today,” he remarked. “I'm happy with the car and there are no problems. I have a different set up that holds better in the ruts, which is good – I just have to adapt to it! I had a couple of spins as I was caught by surprise by it, but those were my mistakes. It's looking good for the Power Stage!”
Of the rest, Martin Prokop, Mikko Hirvonen, Evgeny Novikov and Sebastien Ogier hold positions 7 through to 10, with WRC2 class leader and former F1 pilot, Robert Kubica one spot lower in eleventh.
The event now heads to its conclusion, with both of this morning's test due to be repeated. SS13 – the penultimate stage – starts at 13.37 hours local time [11.37 hours UK time]. SS14, the Power Stage, is due to start at 13.56 hours local time [11.56 hours UK time].
Acropolis Rally of Greece: Overall standings after Stage 12 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 3hours 01mins 54.9secs
2. Dani Sordo
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +1m 19.7s
3. Thierry Neuville
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 57.1s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +4m 02.4s
5. Nasser Al-Attiyah
Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 04.3s
6. Mads Ostberg
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 25.6s
7. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6m 39.2s
8. Mikko Hirvonen
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +7m 55.9s
9. Evgeny Novikov
Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8mins 15.5secs
10. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +10m 23.2s
11. Robert Kubica
Citroen DS3 RRC +13m 15.7s
12. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC +15m 11.4s
13. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari
Ford Fiesta RRC +15m 21.3s
WRC2 standings after Stage 12 (Top 3):
1. Robert Kubica
Citroen DS3 RRC 3hours 15mins 10.6secs
2. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC +1m 55.7s
3. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari
Ford Fiesta RRC +2m 05.6s
SS1. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Technical problem
SS8. Khalid Al-Qassimi
Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Rolled.
*denotes able to re-start under the Rally 2 regulations
all times unofficial