Wales Rally GB - Day three
On the third day of the Wales Rally GB, the sun came out in Wales, but it still threw challenges at the crews. Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala took over the lead from Frenchman Sebastien Loeb following the six special stages on the penultimate day of the season-closing WRC event. Loeb, who virtually secured his record eighth consecutive world title on Friday when sole rival Mikko Hirvonen abandoned, was second at six seconds after stages 12 to 17.
Norwegian Mads Ostberg, who has been suffering from engine problems, did well to end up third but at nearly three minutes off the pace and the fight for the last race of the season has come down to a straight fight between Latvala and Loeb. The Frenchman had started the first three stages on Saturday just 1.1 secs ahead of his Finnish rival and extended his advantage to just over seven seconds by the end of that session.
Latvala, however, launched a determined fight back during which he powered his Ford Fiesta to the fastest times in the closing stages of the afternoon (SS 15-17). "It's going really well and tomorrow (Sunday) morning I need to wake up with a very clean head," said Latvala, who has four rally wins to his name but is yet to win this season. "I have good confidence and I'm so hungry for the victory."
Loeb said his progress had been slowed by the slippery conditions he encountered by having to run at the head of the field. "I was pushing very hard but honestly it was so slippery and I had absolutely no grip," said the Frenchman. "I tried and made no mistake but I could not do any better."
Over at the close knit MINI John Cooper Works WRC team, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle finished day three in their MINI fifth despite having to battle with a broken engine mount for the first three stages. Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio re-joined the competitors in the SupeRally and had a trouble free run.
Meeke started the day eighth and his aim was to move up rapidly to sixth and then battle for fifth. His goal was helped by the retirements of Petter Solberg and Kimi Raikkonen, but not by the broken engine mount. Despite suffering from this he still set some decent stage times on the three stages into mid-day service in Builth Wells. His car was soon as good as new and ready to challenge for fourth in the afternoon.
Meanwhile Sordo was feeling much more confident in the car on the low grip conditions, and on Sweet Lamb was fourth quickest first time through and third on the second run.
Sunday will feature the final six stages of the Wales Rally GB, the 13th and final race in the world rally championship.
13th November, 2011