Latvala grabs
lead in Australia

Jari-Matti Latvala took the lead of Coates Hire Rally Australia after winning Saturday’s opening special stage in his Volkswagen Polo R.

The Finn lost the lead to team-mate Sébastien Ogier in last night’s final short test in Coffs Harbour, but overturned the 0.4sec deficit through the monster 48.92km Nambucca test after beating the Frenchman by 3.0sec.

A relaxed Latvala said the fast, open roads reminded him of his native Finnish stages and suggested there was more pace to come if required.

Ogier was equally calm after his drive. “Not perfect but not bad. I know I can do better and I’ll try to make it up on the next one,” he told WRC Live.

Kris Meeke was third in his Citroen DS3, 10.5sec behind Latvala, and relegated Andreas Mikkelsen to fourth by a tenth of a second.

Despite heavy rain last night the roads were drier than expected and the surface loose. Meeke opted for soft compound Michelin tyres, like the other frontrunners, but suggested harder rubber might have been worth a gamble.

“Maybe we missed an opportunity with the hard tyre. That would have been a big shout. It would have been very, very, very brave but I think it could have worked,” said Meeke.

Elfyn Evans damaged the radiator of his Ford Fiesta RS when a stick pierced the unit. The Welshman was working on the car after the stage in an attempt to make repairs.

Robert Kubica stopped before the stage with intermittent gearbox issues in his Fiesta RS. But after a reset the Pole enjoyed a clear run through the test itself.

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