Volkswagen number one Sebastien Ogier has concluded day three of Wales Rally GB with a 20.3 second lead over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ogier started the third day with a 20.1 second advantage and while it ebbed and flowed, with Ogier initially pulling further ahead and then Latvala putting him under a pressure with three stages win in a row in SS12, SS13 and SS14, it finished with the two split by pretty much the same margin.

"My plan was to keep Jari-Matti at the same distance and that is what we have done," Ogier remarked after the delayed second run through the 2.06 km Chirk Castle super special. "[Overall] I am happy with my day. Wales Rally GB is never finished though until the end. It is a tricky event."

Related Articles

"I am happy with the way we handled this long day today," Ogier continued back in service. "It was a good clean performance without any major mistakes. Surprisingly, the grip was better on most of today's stages than it was on Friday. For us, it was all about maintaining a steady lead over our team-mate Jari-Matti, and we did that perfectly. As such, we did not have to take too many risks and took a rather cautious approach to the many new stages. A 20-second lead is, to a certain degree, reassuring. However, we will have to stay wide awake if Jari-Matti pushes hard again tomorrow. If not, you can be out before you know it - and I definitely want to make it to the finish this time. That would be the perfect end to a perfect season."

Latvala meanwhile was less happy and having taken 9.2 seconds out of Ogier in the 'middle loop', he then lost 3.2 seconds in SS15 and SS16: "It was a very up and down day," said the Finn. "I don't know why I didn't have the feeling this morning. I really need to concentrate on that tomorrow morning. You need to have a perfect run if you want to beat Ogier."

"Our goal for today was to push hard again and put some pressure on Seb. Unfortunately the morning's stages did not go quite as we had hoped," Latvala added. "On the one hand, I was lacking a little bit of confidence to go flat out from the start and find a good rhythm. Then we had also marked too many places as slippery when we did the recce prior to the rally. As a result, I hesitated a little a few times during the first loop.

"Things went better for us later on, and we won three special stages. However, Seb and Julien [Ingrassia, his co-driver] were barely slower than us and able to maintain their lead. We only have about another 50 kilometres of special stage to go on Sunday. Barring something out of the ordinary, it will no longer be possible to make up that much ground. Despite this, I will try to keep up both my pace and the pressure."

Thierry Neuville is next up and set for the final place on the podium in his Qatar World Rally Team-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC car, albeit over 50 seconds off P2 and over a minute off the leader.

"I think the whole day has been quite good for us," said Neuville. "There was one stage that we had to discover and we lost about ten seconds in 20 kilometres, but it was new for us so that was quite normal. The stages are really beautiful, especially the first two this morning. They are not the easiest for sure, but really enjoyable."

Behind, Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen enjoyed a good day, setting the pace in SS10 and SS11 to move up into fourth.

"An absolutely fantastic day for us," Mikkelsen stated. "Our times were good, and two of them were good enough for stage wins, so I am more than happy - especially as we were absolutely flawless today and came through each stage cleanly.

"We made up a lot of time and climbed two positions. I felt great in the Polo right from the very first minute today. However, it was not easy to judge the grip levels, as there was a real mix of particularly slippery sections and some with more grip. I think we found a good rhythm to cope with that, particularly in the morning."

Mads Ostberg rounds out the top five, 7.3 seconds back, with Martin Prokop and Dani Sordo a distant sixth and seventh.

"I think we had a really good day today," stated Ostberg. "Again we made some big improvements with the set-up and before the last 'proper' stage [SS14] we found something really good! The traction and the balance of the car were really, really nice! That's what we'll start with tomorrow, and if it works again then I think it can be a very good day for us."

"The team asked me to get the car safely back home and that's what I tried to do," Sordo added on his return to the Deeside service park. "That didn't stop me from enjoying the day's stages. The roads were slippery in many places, with a lot of mud, but it was fun. The car handled well in the conditions, so I'm happy."

WRC2 runners Elfyn Evans, Jari Ketomaa and Mark Higgins hold positions 8 through to 10, with Evans almost a minute up on Ketomaa and well set for the class win.

"I found the driving really enjoyable today," said Evans. "Certainly the second pass was very slippery in Gartheiniog and Dyfi [SS12 and SS13], but nevertheless great fun to drive. We're glad to still be here and to still be leading the WRC 2 class. Of course this is Rally GB and anything can happen. There are still some very tricky stages to come tomorrow, so we'll definitely need to keep our wits about us! But if we have a clean run, I think we're on course for what could be a really good result."

In terms of retirements, Evgeny Novikov and Robert Kubica both went out in SS11. Novikov had been running sixth, while Kubica re-started under the Rally 2 regulations. Kubica will not re-start again on Sunday.

"Like yesterday, I had adopted a sensible pace, but that wasn't enough to make up for a misunderstanding with one of the pace notes on a very fast corner," Kubica explained. "The rear of the car slid wide and off the road into a ditch, and we ended up rolling twice."

The event now concludes tomorrow and it includes around 52 competitive kilometres and six stages - again with no service to break them up. SS17, the repeat-run through Dyfnant, is due to start at 08.56 hours.

Wales Rally GB: Overall standings after Stage 16 (Top 10):

1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hrs 33m 47.6s M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 20.3s M
3. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 14.4s M
4. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +01m 34.4s M
5. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 41.7s M
6. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06m 42.0s M
7. Dani Sordo Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +07m 45.5s M##
8. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +09m 20.5s WRC2
9. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +10m 20.3s WRC2
10. Mark Higgins Ford Fiesta R5 +10m 55.0s WRC2


11. Eyvind Brynildsen Ford Fiesta R5 +13m 43.5s WRC2
12. Tom Cave Ford Fiesta R5 +16m 07.2s WRC2
13. Edoardo Bresolin Ford Fiesta RRC +16m 09.6s WRC2
14. Michal Solowow Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +18m 06.4s

WRC2 standings after Stage 16 (Top 3):

1. Elfyn Evans Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta R5 2hrs 43m 08.1s WRC2
2. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 59.8s WRC2
3. Mark Higgins Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 34.5s WRC2

WRC3 standings after Stage 16:

1. Jukka Korhonen Citroen DS3 R3T 3hrs 14m 40.5s WRC3
2. Keith Cronin Citroen DS3 R3T +07m 09.0s WRC3

Notable retirements:

DNS. Nasser Al-Attiyah Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Did not start - hand injury M

SS4. Robert Kubica Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Crashed M*
SS6. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC Crashed M

SS11. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Crashed M
SS11. Robert Kubica Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC Crashed M

*denotes re-started under the Rally 2 regulations;
##Started with a 5 minute penalty;
M denotes Manufacturer entry;

all times unofficial