Jari-Matti Latvala stormed through the live TV Power Stage to grab the lead of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB from Sébastien Ogier during an exhilarating Sunday morning.
Stage info: SS19-21
SS19: Elsi, 10.06km
A new stage to the rally. It is twisty as it climbs away from the start before turning onto a more open and faster road, where the forest has been harvested to give improved vision. Narrow technical tracks contrast with wider and faster roads all the way through, until a quarry leads into the final section and a tricky right corner just before the end.
SS20: Gwydir 1, 14.76km
Gwydir has been lengthened and its variety could catch out some. It starts on a wide and open road, climbing uphill through crests and corners for the first 3km. After diving into the forest, thick vegetation makes the road narrow before the test crosses a public road and back into the trees. It remains tight but that all changes for the final 6km, which cover wider roads with fast kinks and curves ahead of a flat out blast to the finish.
SS21: Great Orme Llandudno 1, 8.03km
An asphalt test which winds around the rocky Great Orme headland before diving into Llandudno’s streets and finishing on the picturesque promenade after a specially- constructed jump close to the resort’s famous pier. The Orme is tricky with pavements and rock faces on one side and a stone wall shielding a drop into the sea on the other. It’s very easy to make an error here.
After narrowing Ogier’s overnight lead to 1.7sec with second fastest time in the opening Elsi speed test, Latvala threw caution to the wind in the following Gwydir special stage to move into a 3.6sec lead and claim maximum bonus points.
Ogier fought back in the following asphalt Great Orme Llandudno test to claim fastest time and defeat the Finn by 3.4sec – reducing the Toyota Yaris pilot’s advantage to a tantalising 0.2sec with two stages remaining.
The gravel forest roads were treacherously slippery after cold overnight temperatures and Latvala’s face at the finish of Gwydir revealed just how much of a roller coaster ride it was.
“An extremely difficult stage. It was very, very low grip and on the asphalt there was a lot of mud. I went flat over a crest, the car was already sideways and I thought I was going to hit the impact, but luckily I got away with it. It was a big push,” he said.
Ogier, who was third in both forest tests, admitted: “It was a difficult morning, the feeling wasn’t really great in the first two stages so I couldn’t push. The Toyota is very strong but we’re going to keep pushing until the end.”
Esapekka Lappi was fastest in Elsi and the Yaris driver watched the lead battle from a safe third place after Craig Breen’s hopes of a podium took a knock when the Irishman spun his Citroën C3 in Gwydir and dropped 10sec.
Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Mads Østberg to climb to fifth in his Hyundai i20, while team-mate Thierry Neuville’s scramble for vital championship points improved when he moved ahead of Hayden Paddon by a tenth of a second into seventh. He trails Østberg by 6.9sec.
After yesterday’s problems Ott Tänak and Neuville were desperate for Power Stage points to boost their three-way championship battle with Ogier. Tänak fared best to claim four bonus points while Neuville took two, one fewer than Ogier.