Jari-Matti Latvala has concluded Saturday's leg on top on Rallye de France, snatching the lead from Dani Sordo in the final stage.
Latvala and Sordo went into the short 4.65 km Mulhouse test, SS14, split by just 0.6 seconds. However Latvala was fractionally quicker, posting the second best time, 0.5 seconds behind Sebastien Ogier and 1 second up on Dani Sordo, who was fourth fastest. That was sufficient to give Jari-Matti the lead at the end of the second full-day of competition.
“I think this is the closest rally I have ever been involved in. It is incredibly close at the top, with only a few seconds separating the first four – that is really impressive,” Latvala remarked.
“Today's tests were really tricky, but we still coped very well with the changing conditions, did not take too many risks, and made it to the finish without making any mistakes. It is obviously a great feeling to lead the Rally France overnight, but we have not won anything yet.
“We will try to maintain our rhythm and be consistently quick and safe. Tomorrow it will be crucial to choose the right tyres, as the weather forecast is difficult and we have six back-to-back special stages. Anyone who gets the tyre selection wrong, could wave goodbye to any hopes of victory in the morning.
“It will be an exciting final day, that much is certain.”
“It's very close despite the conditions being extreme in places," Sordo added. "It's very exciting to find myself in a four- or five-way fight for the win, even more so than in Germany when there were just two of us on the Saturday evening. I feel ready to carry on in very much the same vein tomorrow.”
Behind the top two, Sebastien Ogier lies third, just 1.5 seconds further back, and determined to try and seal his 2013 WRC title success in style: “That was a virtually perfect day for us. I never thought that we would get back into the race this weekend. The fans can look forward to a real showdown tomorrow. Four drivers within a matter of seconds – it will be a fantastic battle,” said the Frenchman.
“Victory would obviously be the icing on the cake – but the most important thing is that we already have the cake! I felt much better in the car today, and the Polo R WRC worked perfectly in difficult conditions out on the route. Luckily I found my rhythm again, and we also gave it 100 per cent on every stage.”
Further back, Sebastien Loeb lies fourth, 3.5 seconds off Ogier, with Thierry Neuville now fifth following that puncture in SS11, which cost him the lead and has dropped him down and out of contention [see separate story - HERE