Jari-Matti Latvala is six stages away from winning Wales Rally GB, round 10 of the FIA World Rally Championship, following a controlled, albeit rapid display at the wheel of his Ford Fiesta RS WRC on day two of the gravel event.
Latvala left the overnight halt in Cardiff this morning leading by 12.1s. In largely dry conditions, the Finn bagged a further three stage bests to stretch his advantage out front to 24.5s. Team-mate Petter Solberg is second after staving off the attentions of Citroen’s world champion Sebastien Loeb, who had closed to within 3.9s of the Norwegian after the morning stages but was then unable to respond when Solberg sped up in the afternoon.
“We’ve had a good feeling today but we need to keep going and keep fighting for the victory tomorrow,” said Latvala. “When Sebastien has a nice espresso in the morning he can attack and we need to be prepared for that.”
Solberg lost time in the morning due to the set-up of his Fiesta being too soft and too low for the drying conditions. By stiffening the car at the midday service in Cardiff, Solberg was able to hit back in the afternoon with a brace of stage wins to keep Loeb 6.4s behind.
Despite ending Ford’s sequence of stage wins with the fastest time on Saturday’s second test, Loeb will start day three trailing Latvala by 30.9s after he admitted to struggling to match the leading Fiestas. “The only thing I can hope is to fight with Petter [for second] but he was very fast today and I couldn’t beat him. For the moment we are third and we didn’t find any miracle with the set-up.”
Mads Ostberg made a hugely impressive start to day two by winning the first stage to close up to third-placed Loeb. However, his decision to carry two spare tyres for the afternoon loop adversely affected his car’s handling and slowed the Norwegian’s ultimate pace. Ostberg is more than half a minute clear of Mikko Hirvonen, who has struggled to make an impact in his works Citroen.
Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov clocked several impressive stage times in their M-Sport Fiestas to hold sixth and seventh places respectively. Thierry Neuville, who is eighth overall, experienced a build up of mud in his Citroen on Saturday’s opener after a hole appeared. However, he was able to block the gap with paper cloths to continue building his experience of the event he is tackling for the first time.