Rally Argentina: Latvala retains lead, but Meeke closes

Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala remains top on Rally de Portugal, although advantage has been cut from 11.1s to 6.1s
Volkswagen's Jari-Matti Latvala continues to lead Rally de Portugal following Saturday morning's opening loop, but Kris Meeke has closed in his Citroen DS 3 WRC, reducing the gap to 6.1 seconds after winning SS9 and SS10.

Latvala began the day with a 11.1s cushion, but an overshoot in SS8, the opening test of the day, cost him 5 seconds. The Finn was, however, back on it in SS9, finishing the stage second fastest – just 0.2s slower than Meeke, before a scare in SS10, when he hit a rock 7 km from the end, saw him lose another 5 or so seconds.

“The fight is good,” Latvala told the official WRC site. “Over [the] 37km [of SS10] I'm happy with that [the third best time]. 7km before the end though I hit a rock and I feared a front tyre was flat. I was hesitating afterwards - that's where I lost the time.”

Meanwhile, Meeke briefly slipped to third in SS8, when he was overhauled by VW Motorsport II man Andreas Mikkelsen, who was fastest in that test. The Ulsterman re-took the position though in SS9 and then extended the gap to 9.2s after SS10 as he closed in on Latvala.

It wasn't all plain sailing, however, with the Briton reporting a major moment in Marao 1: “We had a big moment - a wrong pace-note [in SS9]. We should have been a gear lower, in fourth, not fifth. That can happen on a new rally. One moment of missed concentration on the recce but we were lucky,” conceded Meeke.

Behind, Championship leader Sebastien Ogier has now hauled himself up from sixth to fourth in his Polo R WRC and is just 3.8s off Mikkelsen in third, having gone second in SS8 and SS10 and third quickest in SS9.

“I did the best I could - I really pushed and I think I can be really pleased with this morning,” Ogier noted. “To be honest, I have no more to give and I hope the conditions will not be too bad for me and fair for everyone.

“Maybe it is enough to make a difference. I just need to push and see what I can do. Maybe strategy is not easy this afternoon. We all have different choices and different packages left. I think I am OK. I know I have little bit better tyres left than them. I need to use them at the right moment. I have six soft – five new and one almost new.”

M-Sport's Ott Tanak completes the top-five, 29.8s further back, and 13.7s up on the Hyundai of Dani Sordo in sixth. Sordo in turn is just 0.3s ahead of Mads Ostberg's Citroen DS 3 WRC in P7.

“I have loads of softs left now so the rest of the rally will be no problem for us at all!” Tanak said. “On the first stage of the morning [SS8] I think we did okay. With the selection we had we were expecting to lose a little in there and the time wasn't too bad.

“But on the second one [SS9] we went with the hard tyre all round and lost a lot of time because of that. It was still extremely slippery and soft with a dusty surface so we hardly had any grip. Then, thankfully, we were back on a similar pace to yesterday for the last one [SS10].

“I think it will be another difficult afternoon, in terms of tyre choice especially. It looks really sandy and not so aggressive in some places but we also have to keep in mind that there have been about 90 cars behind us so a lot can have changed. It will be interesting to see what everyone decides to do!”

Hayden Paddon rounds out the top-eight in the Hyundai Motorsport N entry, with former F1 driver Robert Kubica ninth and Ford privateer Martin Prokop tenth.

In WRC2, Nasser Al-Attiyah remains in the lead in his Ford Fiesta RRC, 13.6s up on Pontus Tidemand in the new Skoda Fabia R5. Esapekka Lappi is third in the sister Fabia R5. Yazeed Al-Rajhi, who had been second in the class last night, went out in SS10 with suspension damage.

Other notable retirees, included Thierry Neuville, who crashed in the first test of the day, when he rolled his Hyundai i20 WRC 3 kilometres in. M-Sport's Elfyn Evans, having rejoined under Rally 2, also went out in that test after hitting a rock, while Lorenzo Bertelli - another that re-started - stopped in the final test of the loop.

Rally Portugal now continues this afternoon, with repeat runs through this morning's three stages. SS11, the 18.57 km Baiao 2 test, is due to start at 14.39 hours local time. Full itinerary for event available - HERE.

2015 Rally de Portugal: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):

1. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2h 02m 10.7s M
2. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +0m 06.1s M
3. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +0m 15.3s M
4. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 19.1s M
5. Ott Tanak M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 48.9s M
6. Dani Sordo Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 02.6s M
7. Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +1m 02.9s M
8. Hayden Paddon Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC +1m 11.5s M
9. Robert Kubica Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 14.0s
10. Martin Prokop Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 19.3s M


11. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC +6m 21.1s WRC2
12. Pontus Tidemand Skoda Fabia R5 +6m 34.7s WRC2

WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):

1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford Fiesta RRC 2h 08m 31.8s WRC2
2. Pontus Tidemand Skoda Fabia R5 +0m 13.6s WRC2
3. Esapekka Lappi Skoda Fabia R5 +0m 21.9s WRC2

Notable retirements:

SS2. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Out of time M*
SS4. Khalid Al Qassimi Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC Mechanical*
SS7. Lorenzo Bertelli Ford Fiesta RS WRC Retired on road section on way back to service M*

SS8. Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Rolled M
SS8. Elfyn Evans M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC Hit a rock M
SS10. Lorenzo Bertelli Ford Fiesta RS WRC Stopped M*

M denotes Manufacturer entry
*denotes re-started on Saturday under Rally 2

all times unofficial
by Rob Wilkins

Related Pictures

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Jari-Matti Latvala,  Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo WRC #2, Volkswagen Motorsport)

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