Rally Sweden: Latvala pulls clear

Jari-Matti Latvala completes SS20 with his lead over Andreas Mikkelsen up to 42.7 seconds; Mads Ostberg remains on course for the final place on the rostrum with Mikko Hirvonen fourth and Ott Tanak fifth...
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala has pulled clear this morning on the final day of Rally Sweden, winning all four stages and building a 42.7 second lead.

Latvala began the third full-day of competition just 3.6 seconds up on team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen. However he soon asserted his authority and with the quickest time in Hara 1, SS17 – the 300th stage win of his career – he more than doubled his advantage to 7.5 seconds.

The Finn was then quickest again in SS18 and with Andreas Mikkelsen going off near the end of the test - and losing over 20 seconds - the battle was pretty much decided, Latvala emerging with his cushion up to 33.2 seconds.

Despite that though, the 28-year-old continued to push and took two more stage wins in SS19 and SS20 and now heads into Service G in Hagfors with a comfortable lead, not that he is complacent.

“It's been a good feeling to drive, the conditions are difficult but I am enjoying driving the car,” Latvala said after Vargasen 1. “Together with Miikka [Anttila – my co-driver] we discussed how to drive this rally and the plan has been working well. But we need to stay focused and there are many stages to go and the conditions can still be difficult.

“It's a shame that Andreas went a little bit off, we had a great fight and he has been driving very, very well.”

“[Overall though] my confidence is good, now we just need to go for coffee and lunch and then we can go again,” he added post-SS20.

Behind the two top, Mads Ostberg remains third and after Mikkelsen's problems in SS18, the Citroen man is only 16.6 seconds back in his DS3 WRC car.

Mikko Hirvonen is next up and fourth for the M-Sport WRT, but his chances of overhauling Ostberg and getting a podium have diminished. Indeed he had been just 19.8 seconds back last night, but now finds himself 55 seconds adrift.

“In the first stage [SS17] I had so many moments in the first five kilometres – three or four times we were nearly off the road. That first split was actually a really good time, but I didn't want to risk not finishing the rally,” he explained. “[Then] once you slow down here you lose so much time that it is impossible to keep up with the guys with a good rhythm."

"We saw yesterday that the second pass was really rough so we'll make the set-up a little stiffer in service to help deal with that. Other than that, the car is working well so there is no need to make any dramatic changes,” he continued.

Ott Tanak completes the top-five and has similarly dropped back, now 22.5 seconds off fellow M-Sport-runner Hirvonen: “It was another tricky morning with some really changeable conditions,” he noted. “I wasn't completely confident in the car with understeer in some places and oversteer in others. We also had a spin on the third stage [SS19] which cost us some time. I'm sure as we see more gravel through this afternoon we will be able to pick up the pace.”

Further back, Henning Solberg lies sixth, with Sebastien Ogier up to seventh, despite that off on Friday, which cost him 4.5 minutes.

“It was a bit tricky but I'm having a good day and I'm very happy with my driving,” said the 2013 WRC champion post-SS20.

“It's really difficult out there – almost impossible to push!” Henning chipped in. “But I have more than 20 years [experience] in the snow so I know how to handle it. I think we have done a good job. To come here after 12 months away and match the times of the world champion is not bad at all.”

Behind, Pontus Tidemand, Elfyn Evans and Craig Breen round out the top-ten – Evans reporting brake issues in SS17.

“The morning was OK, we were just trying to learn more again,” said Evans. “The conditions were quite varied with lots of grip in some places and then nothing in the next so it was quite challenging. I wouldn't say that I feel confident quite yet. There are still a lot of areas to improve, but for now I think we are doing OK.”

Of the rest, Citroen's Kris Meeke has dropped down from sixth to 14th after he went off and had to dig out his car in Torntorp 1. He lost around 7 minutes. Hyundai duo Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen are also running outside the points having rejoined this morning under Rally 2. Despite that though, Neuville's second quickest time in SS19 will at least give them some cheer. Robert Kubica is also well down the leaderboard after his offs on Friday. He had another one this morning too in SS20.

“It was my mistake from the recce – I didn't mark that the corner was tightening as much as it was and when I turned in on the inside line there was quite a lot of understeer. We got dragged into another snow bank and lost a lot of time,” Kubica explained. “We'll fix the car in service, and I don't think the conditions can get any worse than what I had as the first car on the road this morning! For sure the conditions will be better so I hope we can continue to learn and make some improvements.”

In WRC2, Yazeed Al-Rajhi remains on top, seemingly pacing himself to the finish and still over a minute up Jari Ketomaa. Karl Kruuda is third, but Fredrik Ahlin has closed up, winning all four stages to cut the margin from 33.5 seconds overnight to 16.9 seconds post-SS20.

The event now resumes at 13.02 hours local time, with Torntorp 1 (SS22). SS21 has been cancelled. Three stages remain to be run before the finish.

Rally Sweden: Overall standings after Stage 20 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hrs 28m 33.3s M
2. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 42.7s M
3. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 59.3s M
4. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 54.3s M
5. Ott Tanak M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 16.8s
6. Henning Solberg Ford Fiesta RS WRC +03m 56.1s
7. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +04m 24.1s M
8. Pontus Tidemand Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04m 52.5s
9. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05m 47.2s M
10. Craig Breen Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07m 43.9s


11. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +09m 57.7s WRC2
12. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +10m 54.4s M
13. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10m 54.7s M
14. Jari Ketomaa Drive DMACK WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +11m 06.6s WRC2
15. Karl Kruuda Ford Fiesta S2000 +11m 40.0s WRC2
16. Fredrik Ahlin Ford Fiesta R5 +11m 56.9s WRC2
17. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +14m 47.1s WRC2
19. Khalid Al-Qassimi Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +15m 24.2s
24. Juho Hanninen Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +26m 22.7s M
28. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +32m 59.7s M
31. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1h 21m 54.7s M

WRC2 standings after Stage 20 (Top 3):

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC 2hr 38m 31.0s WRC2
2. Jari Ketomaa Drive DMACK WRT Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 08.9s WRC2
3. Karl Kruuda Ford Fiesta S2000 +01m 42.3s WRC2

Notable retirements:

SS8. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Hit a rock M*
SS11. Anders Grondal Subaru Impreza STi N16 Engine WRC2
SS12. Juho Hanninen Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Pulled front right wheel off M*

*Re-started under the Rally 2 regulations

all times unofficial>

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)
Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #7, Volkswagen Motorsport)

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