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.
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.”