The Finn was 14sec in front, and on course to take his second WRC win for Volkswagen, when his Polo R left the road and crashed into undergrowth four kilometres from the end of Stage 12.
Latvala told wrc.com that the accident was a consequence of another incident in the previous stage, when his car had swiped one of the notorious concrete blocks that line the military roads.
“On the first pass through Panzerplatte [SS11] we went wide and hit a Hinkelstein,” explained Latvala. “We damaged the right-hand [co-driver] door and some other body panels. The boys worked on it in service but we couldn't get the door to close properly and stay shut. We tried to use tie-wraps and other straps to hold it but unfortunately it kept opening, so my co-driver had to hold it shut with one hand and try to turn his pace notes with the other.
“Obviously this was very difficult, and at one place [on SS12] the note came maybe a little bit late for the braking and I couldn't stop the car enough - it was extremely slippery. We ran wide and hit a rock or something and damaged the rear suspension. I tried to get going slowly, but then the suspension just snapped completely. We lost control of the car, and that’s when we ended up in the bushes – but there was no further damage done there.”
The Finn will restart on Sunday, but after Andreas Mikkelsen’s pre-rally withdrawal and Sebastien Ogier’s crash on day two, Latvala is painfully aware his retirement cost Volkswagen its last chance of a good result on home ground.
“It’s a big disappointment for Volkswagen and myself for sure - and for many other people. But that’s the way rallying is sometimes. It can be really, really hard,” he said.
If this all sounds familiar, that's because the circumstances of Latvala’s exit are almost identical to the ones that took Dani Sordo out of this year’s Rally Argentina in May.
On that occasion Sordo’s co-driver Carlo Del Barrio gave the wrong pace note because he was distracted trying to close his door. Compare the two here.