Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala will take a comfortable 56.6 second lead into the final day of Rallye Deutschland.
Latvala began the second leg 37 seconds up on Kris Meeke and despite a good margin continued to push, winning five of the seven stages today to stretch his overnight advantage to almost a minute.
Latvala now looks well placed to take his first ever victory on asphalt, a result that will help him slash Ogier's 44 point lead in the Drivers' Championship.
Ogier re-joined on Saturday under Rally 2, but crashed again in SS8
. He will not be able to re-start on Sunday, meaning he won't score any points this weekend.
“It should be fine now [to win]. I think we can take it easy tomorrow,” Latvala said after the last stage. “There is the Power Stage, but we can think about that later on. At least we have a big margin going into tomorrow. I have a good feeling.”
“Tomorrow's stages are a bit shorter than in previous years. I think it is not going to be too bad. It depends [a bit] on the situation with the weather. Today it has been sunshine and rain and so on. All that can affect tomorrow.”
Quizzed on the championship situation, he added: “Look, you never want anything bad for your team-mate. Yesterday Seb made a mistake and then again today too. I did it last year, I know it can happen. However it opens the championship [up] and that will be good for everybody.
“It will be exciting for the rest of the year. But first we have to finish this rally and keep the head cool.”
If he does manage to win on Sunday, he also looks set to not only give Volkswagen victory on home soil, but also ensure the team secures the Manufacturers' title.
Citroen's Kris Meeke meanwhile is locked in a duel with Thierry Neuville for second. Neuville had closed to within just 0.9 seconds after the penultimate test, but Meeke fought back in SS14, gaining 3.4 seconds to give him a 4.3 second buffer going into Sunday's final four stages.
“It was a really tough day, with the changeable weather. We went with soft tyres for both loops. Some of our rivals went for the hard tyre, but I don't think it made a big difference. I lost a few seconds in the afternoon due to a puncture. Fortunately, we made up some time on the 42 kilometre-long Panzerplatte Lang test this evening. I'll be trying to do my very best tomorrow, without going beyond the limits,” Meeke noted.
“We have had a strong day and I am very pleased to be holding a podium position heading into the final day,” Neuville added. “Of course, there are still four stages remaining on Sunday but we are looking in good shape.
“This morning, we made a good tyre call on the long Panzerplatte stage to select the hard Michelin tyre and this afternoon we have also set some good stage times. We are in a very exciting battle not only for the podium but also trying to keep pace to Kris in second. I look forward to resuming the battle tomorrow and we'll do all we can to secure our third podium of the season.”
Dani Sordo is next up, but no longer really in podium contention. He had been just 1.3 seconds behind the sister Hyundai of Neuville after SS10, but lost time on the repeat loop, particularly after he spun off in SS12 – something that cost him around 10-15 seconds. 25.9 seconds now separates him from Neuville.
“I am pretty happy with our performance today and to be holding fourth place,” said the Spaniard. “The first stage this morning was very muddy and slippery so we didn't have much confidence but we were able to pick up the pace again in SS9 and 10. We made a good tyre decision for the first Panzerplatte run, using the hard tyre, but we were perhaps a bit too cautious on the damp sections.
“In the afternoon loop, I pushed hard in the first stage but the wet conditions in SS12 gave us a big moment when we aquaplaned and went into sixth gear. That cost us some of time, but we were able to complete the stage okay. We are in fourth place, which is not too bad considering how tricky some of today's stages have been, but we'll see what more we can achieve in tomorrow's final stages.”
Volkswagen Motorsport II man Andreas Mikkelsen completes the top-five and after Sordo's scrappy afternoon trails him by just 10.2 seconds.
“The Rally Germany is a genuine challenge, that is for sure,” Mikkelsen sadi. “Dry roads alternated with wet conditions in the morning, and it was hard to predict what lay round the next corner.
“In the afternoon it rained more heavily, and puddles produced some aquaplaning. Then it dried out again. 'Panzerplatte', in particular, is anything but pleasant to drive in these unpredictable conditions. As such, I took a cautious approach – particularly as minor mistakes in the morning meant I had a big gap both in front of and behind me. We are still on course to achieve our goal of a top-five finish. However, we must remain fully focussed tomorrow if we are to bring this result home.”
Mikko Hirvonen is now back up to seventh and in front of his M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans. Evans sneaked in front in SS10 this morning, but slipped back in SS11 and now the two are split by 4.9 seconds. Mads Ostberg is also very much in that battle, only 1.2 seconds off Evans in P8.
“This afternoon has been pretty good as we've been more or less on the same pace as the others. It was a shame that we weren't quite there this morning as we've lost a bit too much to the boys who are fighting for the podium, but that's just the way it is,” Hirvonen stated.
“We made some changes to the car before the second loop and I was a lot happier even in the wet conditions. We made the suspension a little stiffer, but sometimes a small change like that can make all the difference and I felt much more comfortable in the car. There's no denying that Elfyn has been driving really well so I'm sure we'll have a nice fight with him tomorrow!”
“It's not been a bad day and we had a really good start to the morning but we've lost a place that we hoped we could hold on to this afternoon,” Evans added. “Of course it's just one of those things and it's still really close so there's all to play for.
“I don't think our tyre choices were necessarily wrong today, but maybe not 100 per cent correct for all of the stages. It's always a compromise here and it's very difficult to say what was the right choice. Panzerplatte was very mixed and on the first stage this afternoon [SS11] we decided to take a mix of softs and hards which felt good in the car, but maybe didn't quite transfer to the times. I think we've put in a really good performance on our world rally car debut on asphalt and I'd like to continue and improve on that tomorrow. We need to remember why we're here, but we're not going to make it too easy for these old boys!”
Ford privateer Martin Prokop and former F1 driver Robert Kubica round out the top ten. Kubica has battled his way back into the top-ten after his off in SS3 on Friday and won two stages today – SS7 and SS12.
“There have been a lot of different conditions to contend with today and I think that we can be happy with the job we have done,” Kubica stated. “We played it safe on the tyre choices as it was important to make it through with no mistakes, and I think the driving has been good. OK, the rain may have helped us with the stage wins, but I'm really pleased with the job we have done.
“The most important thing is that we are learning all the time. We understand why we were making a few mistakes yesterday – it was nothing to do with the driving itself but rather something to do with what I was doing inside the car, so that is good and I'm pleased with how today has gone.”
In WRC2, Julien Maurin has concluded the leg over a minute up on Ott Tanak. Armin Kremer is third, 10.5 seconds back. Pontus Tidemand had led but a puncture in the final test cost him almost two minutes dropping him to fourth.
As for retirements, in addition to Ogier, Bryan Bouffier was the only other major casualty. He went out in SS14 when he went off the road. The Hyundai debutant had been running in ninth position.
Rallye Deutschland now concludes on Sunday with four stages on the bill and a competitive distance of 74.60 kilometres.
SS15, the 18.03 kilometre-run through Dhrontal 1, is due to start tomorrow at 07.28 hours local time [06.28 hours UK time].
Rallye Deutschland: Overall standings after Stage 14 (Top 10):
1. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2hrs 19m 00.7s
2. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 56.6s
3. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +01m 00.9s
4. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +01m 26.8s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +01m 37.0s
6. Mikko Hirvonen
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 53.2s
7. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +01m 58.1s
8. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +01m 59.3s
9. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +04m 09.6s
10. Robert Kubica
RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +06m 39.1s
11. Dennis Kuipers
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +07m 42.0s
12. Yuriy Protasov
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +08m 41.0s
13. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta R5 +09m 13.1s
WRC2 standings after Stage 14 (Top 3):
1. Julien Maurin
Ford Fiesta R5 2hrs 28m 13.8s
2. Ott Tanak
Drive DMACK Ford Fiesta R5 +01m 11.7s
3. Armin Kremer
Skoda Fabia S2000 +01m 22.2s
SS6. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Went off
SS8. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC Crashed
SS14. Bryan Bouffier
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC Went off
*denotes re-started under Rally 2 on Saturday
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial