Stage data: SS14, Brother Mititai 2 (23.22 kilometres)
By Hayden Paddon’s co-driver John Kennard: “Mititai is a stage that is new to most competitors here, although it has been used in Rally of Whangerai in the past. Similar to the previous stage, there are big changes of camber and it is a stage that is quite exciting from a co-driver’s point of view.”
How the action unfolded:
Jari-Matti Latvala offered a reminder of his pace as a hard shower hit stage 14 of Brother Rally New Zealand, the Ford driver claiming only his third stage victory of the weekend.
"Now on this stage I feel positive," said Latvala, who still looks hard-pressed to get above eighth given the time gaps ahead of him.
Rally leader Sebastien Loeb was second quickest to Latvala, stretching his advantage over Citroen team-mate and rival for victory Mikko Hirvonen to 7.9 seconds. But Loeb remained anxious about his position, concerned that Hirvonen had been substantially quicker than him on the first run through the Girls High School stage that is run again to conclude leg two.
"Now we go back to the s**t stage where I lost a lot of time in the morning, so I will have to push hard that," said Loeb. "At the moment I've done a good afternoon - faster than Mikko all the time. Now it's important not to lose everything in the next one, so we have to push.
"It's not easy with the hard tyre in the mud, but it's OK."
Hirvonen is still absolutely relishing his battle with Loeb even as the weather worsens.
"It's very much still on. We'll see," said the Finn. "I think it's very difficult because with this rain it's so slippery in places and it's very, very high speed. We had some moments here and there, but we're still on the road. The best thing you can have is a really big fight."
Petter Solberg (Ford) lost 1.5s to the chasing Evgeny Novikov (M-Sport Ford) on stage 14 but remains comfortable in third, while after his star times on the preceding two stages, Novikov's team-mate Ott Tanak lost a bit of ground with a spin - dropping him 27.2s behind the Russian.