WRC Rally Australia: Latvala takes lead

Jari-Matti Latvala leads Rally Australia after SS10, 4.1 seconds up on Sebastien Ogier; Andreas Mikkelsen is third, 0.8 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke; Mikko Hirvonen completes the top five...
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala has taken the lead this morning on Rally Australia following the opening two stages.

Latvala was quickest in both tests, 3 seconds up on team-mate and overnight leader Sebastien Ogier in SS9 - the long 48.92 km Nambucca 1 test - and then 1.5 seconds quicker than the Frenchman in SS10.

Latvala now heads back into the mid-day service at Coffs Harbour with a 4.1 second advantage.

“I felt really good in there, we found a nice rhythm and it felt a lot like being home Finland in some sections,” Latvala commented after SS9. “When it feels good the time just comes to you and that's what happened here.”

“I have a very good feeling,” Latvala added post-SS10. “I am really enjoying driving here. I feel relaxed and I am enjoying these fabulous stages.”

“Nambucca [SS9] wasn't perfect but not bad. Better than last year. I can do better so I will try harder next time through,” Ogier continued.

“[Then] on the second corner of the second stage [SS10] I made a mistake. I took too much of a cut and hit a bank which put me off the line. At the moment it is so close - every second counts.”

Behind, Andreas Mikkelsen and Kris Meeke are battling over the final podium place. Meeke moved back up to third after SS9, 0.1 seconds ahead, before slipping to fourth in SS10, albeit by only 0.4 seconds.

Mikko Hirvonen completes the top five for M-Sport, almost 20 seconds off the fight for P3. He had been right in amongst it last night.

“We're a little off the fight that I was hoping for, but in both of this morning's stages [SS9 and SS10] I was pleased with what we did,” Hirvonen maintained. “It [SS9] is a long stage so you're going to make a few small mistakes, but there was nothing big and I was really happy with the tyre choice and the car.

“Unfortunately, the guys up front are just a little bit faster at the moment. Let's hope for a little bit of rain this afternoon and see if that gives us a chance to be back in the fight for the podium.”

Further back, Hyundai's Hayden Paddon is sixth and he continues to head Mads Ostberg, the duo still split by around 3-4 seconds as they were after the final test on Friday.

Former F1 driver Robert Kubica has lost time, but stays ninth, one place ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans, while Thierry Neuville rounds out the top ten.

“It's been an okay morning with no big dramas. We had a small issue with the gearbox on the road section to the first stage [SS9] as it was working intermittently; but once we were on the stages it worked perfectly so that was fine,” said Kubica.

“We drove two smooth stages [SS9 and SS10], but the pacenotes were perhaps a little slow in places. Today's stages have a completely different character to yesterday. They're wider and faster so we have to adapt to the pace.”

Evans meanwhile revealed he had a scare in Nambucca 1: “We must have picked up some sort of branch in a cut somewhere [through SS9]. I'm not really sure where it happened, but it's done a fair bit of damage to the radiator. There were two small holes and it was leaking quite a lot of water. Luckily we had some metal putty in the tool kit and we were able to slow the leak and make it through the last stage [of the morning, SS10] and back to service,” he explained.

“Running as the third car on the road it's still pretty loose out there. It was clean enough on the long one [SS9] but I didn't quite get my rhythm through the narrow section towards the end. We're losing a lot to the front runners, but compared to people like Robert [Kubica], who are also competing here for the first time, I think we've been a lot closer today.”

In WRC2, Yazeed Al-Rajhi has extended his overnight lead to 9.2 seconds. Nasser Al-Attiyah is still second in class and Jari Ketomaa third.

Day two of Rally Australia now continues with a repeat run through this morning's two stages, before competitors then tackle the Hyundai super special stage again this evening. Like on Friday, the short 1.56 km super special will be run twice.

Rally Australia: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 1hr 29m 31.5s M
2. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +00m 04.1s M
3. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +00m 16.1s M
4. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +00m 16.9s M
5. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +00m 36.4s M
6. Hayden Paddon Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +01m 25.7s M
7. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +01m 29.4s M
8. Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 16.4s M
9. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +02m 48.2s M
10. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +03m 15.4s M


11. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +04m 55.9s WRC2
12. Chris Atkinson Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +04m 59.1s M
13. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC +05m 05.1s WRC2
14. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +05m 21.5s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):

1. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC 1hr 34m 27.4s WRC2
2. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC +00m 09.2s WRC2
3. Jari Ketomaa Ford Fiesta R5 +00m 25.6s WRC2

Notable retirements:


M denotes Manufacturer entry

all times unofficial
by Rob Wilkins

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) Miikka Antilla (FIN) Volkswagen Polo R WRC

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