Saturday | 23 May 2015

Latvala repels Ogier to retain Portugal lead

Jari-Matti Latvala clung onto the lead of Vodafone Rally de Portugal on Saturday as a determined charge from team-mate Sébastien Ogier set up a thrilling final day.

Despite enduring the worst road conditions of the frontrunners, Ogier roared up the leaderboard from sixth to second. He won all three afternoon speed tests to reduce yesterday’s 25.9sec deficit to his Volkswagen Polo R team-mate to 9.5sec.

Tyre choice and management was a crucial factor over the six mountain stages in northern Portugal. Ahead of the last test, Latvala was confident his hard compound Michelins would give him an advantage over Ogier’s three hard and one soft tyres.

But the Finn, who overshot a junction in the opening stage, conceded almost five seconds to give Ogier a chance of victory through tomorrow’s final three tests.

The tyres started to fade near the end. Maybe I attacked too much in the asphalt section. I’m a bit disappointed but at least we’re still ahead. Ogier is coming very strongly. In these situations he is fired up. This is like a fuel for him,” said Latvala.

Ogier roared up the leaderboard from sixth to second

Ogier swept gravel from the road this morning and admitted he gambled with tyres this afternoon. “We took some risk with tyre choice. It wasn’t so bad but it was on the limit. I'll keep pushing flat out and let's see where we are tomorrow,” he said.

Kris Meeke won two stages this morning to close to within 6.1sec of the lead in Citroën’s DS 3. But the Northern Irishman slipped back to finish 10.5sec behind Ogier and 1.1sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in fourth.

Mikkelsen won the opening stage to briefly hold second but the Norwegian, who spun his Polo R across the finish of the final test, ended 21.1sec off the lead.

Ott Tänak fell away from the podium battle but was untroubled in fifth in his Ford Fiesta RS, ahead of an intriguing three-car fight for sixth.

Hayden Paddon had control heading into the last stage but a broken gearbox allowed Hyundai team-mate Dani Sordo in front by 5.6sec. Mads Østberg could not capitalise as a broken sensor deprived him of turbo boost and he was 4.0sec behind. 

Robert Kubica and Martin Prokop completed the leaderboard in Fiesta RS cars, Prokop surviving a puncture and a spin.

Thierry Neuville and Lorenzo Bertelli both rolled this morning while Elfyn Evans broke the front right suspension on his Fiesta RS after hitting a rock in the same test.

Tomorrow’s showdown will feature three stages covering 54.65km and includes two passes through the Fafe stage, one of the WRC’s iconic locations. The second run will form the live TV Power Stage with bonus points for the fastest three drivers.

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Video: Saturday in Portugal