It means the Finn, at the wheel of a Ford World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, will have first choice of road position for the opening day of the FIA World Rally Championship qualifier.
However, with the forecast for dry and warm weather, dust is likely to be a big issue meaning Latvala - who took 2m26.457s to complete the 3.75-kilometre stage - must balance the need to avoid sweeping the stages of the loose-surface gravel by running at the head of the filed, while ensuring he doesn’t get caught up in plumes of dust thrown up by cars running ahead of him on the road.
There was more good news for the Ford squad with Latvala’s team-mate Petter Solberg posting the second fastest time, 1.024s down on the Finn, who won in Sardinia back in 2009.
After setting the pace in Free Practice, Citroen’s nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb was third quickest, 1.307s down adrift of Latvala with Ford privateer Evgeny Novikov fourth, 1.516s slower than Latvala. Loeb’s Citroen team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was fifth quickest after nearly stalling at the stage start with Ott Tanak and Mads Ostberg next up. Chris Atkinson was eighth for WRC Team MINI Portugal followed by Martin Prokop and Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville.
The Belgian lost time leaving the start line amid reports that he didn’t engage first gear correctly in his Citroen DS3 WRC. He was 7.247s down on Latvala. Brazilian Paulo Nobre has failed to complete the stage after going off the road in his MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
Latvala and his World Rally Car rivals will select their starting positions at Olbia’s Town Hall from 12:30hrs local time.