Sébastien Ogier almost doubled his lead over Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in Sunday morning’s opening speed test at Coates Hire Rally Australia.
Stage info: SS13
Bucca Long 1, 21.95km
More than half of Bucca Long is new, the test living up to its Aboriginal meaning of ‘very bendy’. The early part runs through deep rain-forest, on a fast road with lots of small jumps over drainage pipes and ditches. Many of the roads have been repaired and the clay base will be slippery if wet. Much less surface gravel than Friday and Saturday’s stages.
The Frenchman, bidding to secure his third consecutive world title here, won Bucca Long by 2.5sec to stretch his advantage at the top of the standings to 5.1sec over the Finn.
Kris Meeke, just three-tenths of a second behind Ogier overnight, could not match his pace and fourth fastest left the Citroën man 12.2sec off the lead as he dropped behind Latvala to third.
“It was a good performance but I missed a junction at a hairpin on asphalt and lost about a second,” explained Polo R driver Ogier. “It was a difficult stage, very narrow through the forest, and it wasn’t easy to make a difference.”
Latvala admitted to a ‘big push’ and such was his pace that he shattered the windscreen in a compression. “When you’re pushing you don’t lift. I’m going for the victory,” he said.
Meeke was brutally honest in his assessment. “For two days I had the advantage of a better road position and now I don’t. That’s the true pace of the Volkswagens. I’m still trying and I can’t do more,” said the DS 3 man.
Meeke conceded 1.9sec to Andreas Mikkelsen, who was third, and the Norwegian closed the gap to 6.9sec with four stages remaining.
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