Catalunya WRC: Latvala leads Ogier and Loeb into final day

Jari-Matti Latvala became the fourth different leader on Rally Catalunya after the Saturday stages, as the Toyota driver chases his first World Rally Championship victory in 20 months.

Catalunya WRC: Latvala leads Ogier and Loeb into final day

The changing weather conditions meant running order proved critical across the afternoon’s four asphalt stages; those late onto the routes struggling in heavy rain.

After Ott Tanak suffered a puncture on the morning’s final leg that cost him his commanding 32.9-second lead, Hyundai’s returning Dani Sordo had led his home event.

But Sordo lost out to Latvala on the first use of Savalia – after the morning’s run was cancelled due to badly placed spectators. Compounding his woes, on SS13 he was slowest of the WRC field and so dropped to sixth.

That allowed a consistent Latvala, who has not won in the WRC since Sweden last season, to steal a 4.7s march, despite what he considered to be a poor performance on the reversed El Montmell stage.

“It was quite muddy and I was too cautious because Ott had a puncture here,” he said. “I was too cautious with the exits. I was not confident in the car. Not great driving, it’s poor, I didn’t drive well.”

As Tanak admitted that his title hopes were over, Sebastien Ogier climbed from fifth to second as he hunts down championship leader Thierry Neuville.

However, the M-Sport driver still lamented lost time on SS13. It began in dry conditions, allowing Neuville on soft tyres to set the fastest time - although Ogier, on wet tyres, was only 0.9s off the benchmark,

He said: "It has been a difficult afternoon unfortunately. It is a team sport, we all work together, but we trusted our [meteorologist] and there was no rain all afternoon.”

After his leg had ended, wet weather moved in. That meant Sebastien Loeb was unable to take advantage of the extra grip available from his soft tyres and so fell behind Ogier.

Conditions continued to deteriorate, however, for those behind him, and the nine-time WRC champion hangs on to a potential podium by 1.3s ahead of Elfyn Evans.

Neuville lies fifth, ahead of Sordo and Esapekka Lappi who suffered a high-speed, sixth gear spin also on SS13. 

Citroen’s Craig Breen – who reckoned he had “the most horrible stage I’ve ever driven in my life” during the morning – and Tanak are eighth and ninth.        

Gearshift issues for Eric Camilli on SS11 look set to deny the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 a WRC2 victory on its maiden competitive event, as Skoda Fabia driver Kalle Rovanpera moved to top of the class.

Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Thierry Neuville, Nicolas Gilsoul, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

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Catalunya WRC: Tanak drama gifts Sordo narrow lead

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