Leader Latvala
widens gap

Jari-Matti Latvala stretched his lead in Coates Hire Rally Australia with a second consecutive stage victory in Saturday morning’s Valla test.

He was quickest in the 8.96km stage in a Volkswagen Polo R by 1.5sec over team-mate Sébastien Ogier and the gap between the warring duo was 4.1sec as cars returned to Coffs Harbour for service.

While Latvala stressed how much he was enjoying the Australian roads, Ogier admitted to a second corner mistake when he clipped a bank, taking a chunk out of the front bumper. “Every second counts,” reflected the championship leader.

Andreas Mikkelsen was third, 1.8sec behind Latvala. More importantly for the Norwegian he was 2.7sec quicker than Kris Meeke and regained the third place that he lost to the Citroen DS3 pilot in the previous test. The gap between them was 0.8sec.

Fifth-placed Mikko Hirvonen lost momentum when he slid his Ford Fiesta RS into a ditch at a slippery asphalt corner. The Finn was 19.5sec behind Meeke.

Hayden Paddon (pictured below) adjusted the ride height on his Hyundai i20 before the stage and fended off Mads Østberg’s DS3 by 3.7sec in their fight for sixth, with Robert Kubica eighth.

Elfyn Evans was relieved to emerge after a branch holed the radiator of his Fiesta RS in two places in the previous test. “We were panicking a little bit but it seems to have held up,” said the Welshman, who used putty to make repairs. He was ninth with a 27.2sec advantage over Thierry Neuville.

Yazeed Al Rajhi and Nasser Al-Attiyah continued their WRC 2 battle, with Al Rajhi 8.2sec ahead in a Fiesta RRC. Jari Ketomaa was third after puncturing a front right tyre.

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