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Latvala takes slender Rally Spain lead

Latvala takes slender Rally Spain lead
By AutoSport

27/10/2018 at 17:48Updated 27/10/2018 at 17:58

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

Sebastien Ogier is the best of the title challengers in second - ahead of nine-time WRC champion Sebastien Loeb - with points leader Thierry Neuville back in fifth and Ott Tanak declaring his championship bid over.

After 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 - amid changeable conditions.

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.

Sébastien Ogier (Ford WRT) - Rally of Great Britain 2018

Sébastien Ogier (Ford WRT) - Rally of Great Britain 2018Getty Images

"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. It's poor, I didn't drive well."

Despite moving into a strong position after Tanak's troubles, M-Sport driver Ogier 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.

Ott Tanak (Toyota) sur le Rallye de Catalogne

Ott Tanak (Toyota) sur le Rallye de CatalogneGetty Images

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."

But after his leg had ended, wet weather moved in. That meant 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. So Loeb hangs on to a potential podium by 1.3s ahead of Elfyn Evans.

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

Behind the i20 WRC of Sordo, 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 the top of the class.

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