FIA

Latvala holds lead
after Finland drama

A defiant Jari-Matti Latvala ended Saturday’s penultimate leg of Rally Finland with a slender 3.4sec lead over team-mate Sébastien Ogier following a dramatic finale to the day.

Five wins from six stages enabled Latvala to stretch his overnight lead from 19.7sec to a comfortable 31.1sec. But the Finn hit a hole across the road in the rutted second pass through Jukojärvi (SS20) and broke the front right brake caliper on his Polo R.

Latvala and Ogier - head to head on Sunday

He drove the final three tests with just three brakes and championship leader Ogier, who earlier indicated it would be ‘stupid’ to try to catch Latvala, seized his chance. He was fastest through the final four stages to set up a thrilling sprint to the finish tomorrow.

“I had to hold on,” said Latvala. “I’ve worked so hard and I didn’t come here to lose this rally. We’ll get the car fixed in service and tomorrow we’re in the fight for victory. I don’t care so much about the world championship right now, this is about Rally Finland.”

Ironically both Ogier and third-placed Kris Meeke hit the same hole as Latvala but escaped unscathed. Meeke started the day in second ahead of Ogier but refused to be drawn into a battle and ended 29.0sec behind after a troublefree day in his Citroen DS3.

“It’s not nice what happened to Jari-Matti,” said Ogier. “I can’t smile too much about the situation. I have a chance to win, but it came about by chance because Jari-Matti was doing a great job at the front.”

Hayden Paddon - leading Hyundai in sixth

Andreas Mikkelsen lay fourth in another Polo R, the Norwegian seeing off challenges from Mads Østberg and Mikko Hirvonen. Mikkelsen ended the day with no brakes while Hirvonen broke the front right shock absorber on his Ford Fiesta RS in Jukojärvi and lost time.

Hayden Paddon was sixth in a Hyundai i20, holding off team-mate Juho Hänninen by 28.8sec. Elfyn Evans was eighth, the Welshman frustrated at not being able to raise his speed this afternoon with Craig Breen and Henning Solberg completing the leaderboard.

Østberg was the only major retirement. He was withdrawn at the mid-leg service when FIA scrutineers discovered damage to his roll cage following a massive impact with a stone. The Citroen DS3 driver was fighting Andreas Mikkelsen for fourth at the time.

Tomorrow’s final leg is the shortest. Drivers depart Jyväskylä at 08.15 for three stages covering 36.60km. The tests are Finland classics with two passes through Ruuhimäki, the second of which is the live TV Power Stage, sandwiching Myhinpää before the 15.00 finish.

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