Jari-Matti Latvala won Friday afternoon’s opening two speed tests at Coates Hire Rally Australia to charge up the leaderboard from fifth to second.
Stage info: SS5/6
SS5: Utungun 2, 7.88km
This is the first of Friday morning’s three new stages and runs through open farmland. After an initial 1.2km of asphalt, it switches to fast, flowing gravel. The first half is open but it becomes twistier for the final 4km, with long corners around the hills. There is plenty of loose gravel on the road surface, deep in places.
SS6: Bakers Creek 2, 16.75km
Bakers Creek is similar to the opener in its nature. After 2km of continuous twists and turns, it becomes more flowing. The middle section is tighter before an open run to the finish. There are several short sections of asphalt with a lot of gravel on the surface in the first 6km.
The Finn won the second pass through Utungun by 1.6sec in his Volkswagen Polo R to demote Andreas Mikkelsen. He then went fastest though Bakers Creek to move ahead of Hayden Paddon and tied with the Kiwi’s Hyundai team-mate, Dani Sordo, in second.
Latvala reduced the gap to leader Kris Meeke to 6.1sec with two stages remaining in the opening leg of this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Meeke was second in Utungun and third in Bakers Creek in Citroën’s DS 3.
Second for Mikkelsen in SS6 pushed the Norwegian ahead of Paddon, who dropped from third to fifth.
Championship leader Sébastien Ogier remained sixth and the Frenchman, who is opening the road all day, reckoned the gravel-covered roads were no less slippery than they were during this morning’s first pass. Less than nine seconds covered the five cars from Latvala to Ogier in the overall standings.
Ott Tänak spun his Ford Fiesta RS in Bakers Creek but retained seventh from Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville by 0.4sec.
SS2: Sordo sets early pace
Spaniard fastest through opening two tests
News in brief: Thursday in Australia
stories that are making the news before the start of Coates Hire Rally Australia