Saturday | 13 Sep 2014

Tyre gamble gives Ogier Oz advantage

A shrewd tyre call from Sébastien Ogier handed him the lead of Coates Hire Rally Australia after Saturday’s second leg.

Ogier headed Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala by 11.8sec after out-guessing the Finn during this afternoon’s special stages when the threat of rain prompted a myriad of different tyre selections from the FIA World Rally Championship’s leading drivers.

Latvala snatched top spot from overnight leader Ogier with fastest time in this morning’s two gravel stages near the New South Wales base of Coffs Harbour. However, his 4.1sec advantage was wiped out when the tests were repeated.

Forecasts suggested rain was likely, prompting Latvala to opt for two hard compound Michelin tyres on the front of his Polo R and two softs on the rear. But the roads remained dry and Ogier’s option of three hard and one soft tyre was more matched to the conditions.

Jari-Matti Latvala - fluffed tyre choice

He snatched back more than 13sec from his rival during the marathon 48.92km Nambucca test to deflate Latvala’s victory hopes.

“It was all about tyre choice this afternoon,” said Ogier. “The meteo was very unsure and there was a risk of thunderstorms, but finally it stayed dry. We had to use one soft tyre but Jari-Matti had to use two so it was even harder for him.

“The car moved a little bit and oversteered in right corners but you have to keep that in mind and be a bit cautious,” he added.

Kris Meeke and Andreas Mikkelsen exchanged positions all day in their fight for the final podium position. Mikkelsen started in third and after four changes in position the Norwegian ended there to provide Volkswagen with a 1-2-3 overnight. The gap between them is 1.5sec.

Mikko Hirvonen - fifth place

Mikko Hirvonen is fifth, 60.4sec behind Meeke’s Citroen DS3, after his choice of soft tyres all round for his Ford Fiesta RS cost large chunks of time. He is 41.0sec ahead of Mads Østberg who moved his DS3 into sixth ahead of Hayden Paddon after the Kiwi fended him off all morning.

Thierry Neuville is eighth in a Hyundai i20, despite clipping a pole, with Elfyn Evans moving up to ninth after Robert Kubica dropped more than a minute when he became distracted by a warning light in the cockpit of his Fiesta RS and crashed at a crest.

Tomorrow’s final leg journeys north of Coffs Harbour for two identical loops of three stages covering 89.62km. The final Power Stage offers bonus points to the fastest three drivers.

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