Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala managed to extend his lead on Rallye Deutschland this afternoon, winning two of the three stages.

Latvala concluded the morning loop just 2.4 seconds up on Thierry Neuville and with the Belgian having set the pace in all three tests, the pressure was on. Neuville continued to turn the screw initially on the repeats runs too, and in SS6, Mittelmosel 2, the Qatar WRT man was again fastest, albeit only 0.4 seconds up on Jari-Matti.

On the next two stages though the pendulum swung firmly in the favour of the Finn, and he was 2.6 seconds up in SS7 and then gained another 2.7 seconds in SS8.

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Latvala thus heads into the overnight service with the margin up to 7.3 seconds, although the fight is far from over, with the longest test of the event on the agenda on Saturday, the daunting 41.08 km Arena Panzerplatte test.

"I have to be honest, I've really enjoyed the driving this afternoon," Latvala told his official Facebook page. "We made some changes at lunch time and it's really been great. I really love driving this car!"

"It's a really good feeling, but you never know what tomorrow brings, we might see rain. We have to remember that rallying isn't simple and the situation can change quickly, but for now it feels really, really good," he added.

"It was maximum attack on the last two stages," Neuville chipped in. "That was as fast as I could go, but when you look at the split times, Jari-Matti is still faster..."

"I think I drove well today," Neuville continued. "We still had a bit of understeer, but our pacenotes were better this afternoon. Now our objective is to hang onto second place. Tomorrow looks like being a difficult day, and it will be essential to avoid the pitfalls. In that respect, running second-on-the-road could actually help us as we will have somebody else's lines to follow. The tyres will be a key factor, too.

"We're definitely going to push though, and when the conditions are slippery - as we expect they might be - the Fiesta always shows great speed. Although I've never driven the car in the wet before on tarmac, I'm sure I'll be able to adapt pretty quickly. In France last year, I proved that I'm very fast in those conditions. There's still a long way to go in this rally and a lot of unknowns."

Behind the duel at the front, Dani Sordo continues to hold third for Citroen, but he has slipped further back and is now 19 seconds off P2 - and 26.3 seconds off the lead.

"I kept pushing hard, but I braked too late and ended up overshooting a hairpin [in the final test]. I now have to concentrate on tomorrow's leg, which will be very different with the stage in the Baumholder military base. We have to remain confident and keep pushing all the way," Sordo stated.

Mikko Hirvonen lies fourth in the sister works Citroen DS3 WRC, but like Sordo, has no answer to those ahead: "I am happy with my pace, but these guys in front are simply faster," he admitted. "I didn't manage to improve as much as I would have liked. The others are also really pushing hard! I expect the third leg to be tough. The weather forecast doesn't look too good [either], so there may well be other incidents tomorrow."

Mads Ostberg is a distant and lonely fifth for the Qatar M-Sport WRT, over a minute off Hirvonen and just over 2 minutes up on Martin Prokop in P6.

"The changes we made in service helped on the first stage [this afternoon, SS6]. It was a lot better and I had much more confidence, although there were still some sections where I struggled," Ostberg recounted. "We changed the set-up a bit more for the second stage [SS7], but unfortunately we went the wrong way and the confidence was gone again. Then for the last one [SS8] we went back, and the confidence returned. We're definitely onto something!

"Obviously I need to sync my driving to the car before I can do a better job - we're friends again, but we're not best friends just yet. We need to continue as we have today and hopefully my driving will change to suit the set-up. We will keep trying to improve and regain some confidence - we just need to focus on ourselves."

Nasser Al-Attiyah holds seventh, with WRC2 runners Robert Kubica, Elfyn Evans and Sepp Wiegand in positions 8 through to 10. Kubica leads the WRC2 class by 12.4 seconds, having won 5 of the 8 tests so far.

In the other support categories, Sebastien Chardonnet remains out front in WRC3, while Pontus Tidemand is on top in the JWRC, having moved to the fore in SS4 this morning.

As for retirements, Sebastien Ogier was the big scalp today. Ogier, who led overnight, went off the road in SS3 and damaged the front suspension on his Polo R WRC. He made it through that test - albeit losing over 2.5 minutes - but then had to stop in SS4 after his emergency repairs failed. He will now re-start on Saturday under the Rally 2 regulations.

Per-Gunnar Andersson also went out this morning, with Michal Kosciuszko following after SS5 due to back injuries sustained on the opening loop.

Rallye Deutschland now continues on Saturday, with another two loops of three stages on the bill. SS9, the 26.54 km Stein & Wein 1, is due to start at 08.03 hours local time [07.03 hours UK time].

Rallye Deutschland: Overall standings after Stage 8 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1h 38m 04.6s M
2. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 07.3s M
3. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 26.3s M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 47.6s M
5. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 12.3s M
6. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04m 17.6s M
7. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04m 52.1s M
8. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC +04m 59.5s WRC2
9. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +05m 11.9s WRC2
10. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +06m 53.7s WRC2


11. Hayden Paddon Skoda Fabia S2000 +06m 57.4s WRC2
12. Khalid Al-Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +08m 33.0s M
13. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +09m 41.9s
14. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T +11m 17.8s WRC3

WRC2 standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 RRC 1h 43m 03.6s WRC2
2. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 12.4s WRC2
3. Sepp Wiegand Skoda Fabia S2000 +01m 54.2s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 8 (Top 3):

1. Sebastien Chardonnet Citroen DS3 R3T 1h 49m 21.9s WRC3
2. Keith Cronin Citroen DS3 R3T +01m 56.0s WRC3
3. Mohamed Al-Mutawaa Citroen DS3 R3T +14m 04.3s WRC3

JWRC standings after Stage 8 (Top 3)

1. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta R2 1h 53m 02.8s JWRC
2. Michael Burri Ford Fiesta R2 +02m 24.6s JWRC
3. Marius Aasen Ford Fiesta R2 +02m 40.6s JWRC

Notable retirements:

DNS. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Did not start - co-driver injury M

SS1. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Went off the road M*
SS1/2. Per-Gunnar Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped*

SS3. Per-Gunnar Andersson Ford Fiesta RS WRC Retired
SS4. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Suspension damage after off in SS3 M
SS5/6. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Team WRC Ford Fiesta RS WRC Injury M

*denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations
M denotes Manufacturer entry

all times unofficial