With the FIA World Rally Championship titles provisionally settled, the leading contenders are flat-out to the finish line on the final round of the series, Wales Rally GB. Sébastien Ogier has a slim advantage after the opening day of competition, but team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala is hot on his heels, just 6.6 seconds adrift after 145.78 competitive kilometres. In his final outing in the WRC, Mikko Hirvonen is on track to achieve his goal of a swansong podium, the Finn third in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Wales Rally GB got underway last night with its ceremonial start in Colwyn Bay, where thousands of fans flocked to see their heroes before they headed into the wet and wintry Welsh forests today. Two identical loops of four stages lay in wait and, as traditional on Britain’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, conditions were tricky from the outset. Ogier led from the start, the newly-crowned World Champion* taking victory in three of the first four stages to pull out a 9.5 second lead mid-way through the day. The Frenchman didn’t have it all his own way, however, and Latvala reversed the fortunes this afternoon with his three stage wins to close the gap to 6.6 seconds overnight. Neither of the Volkswagen Polo R WRC drivers has had an easy day, some oversteer, big moments and treacherously slippery conditions meaning they were both happy to overnight without major issues. Hirvonen is having a great final rally and climbed to third in stage six; he is however more than a minute adrift of the charging Polos.
Kris Meeke’s day got off to a bad start when he incurred a 10 second penalty for a jump start in the first stage. He has climbed from an earlier seventh to fourth this evening, knocking Mads Østberg out of position despite a string of mistakes in the final stage. The Norwegian has however generally had a good day, running as high as third in the sister Citroën DS3 WRC. Thierry Neuville is in the lead Hyundai i20 WRC in sixth and the Belgian is potentially still within striking distance of third position. On his home round of the Championship, Elfyn Evans is seventh, finding it difficult to get into a good rhythm. Ott Tanak in another Fiesta RS WRC is running well in eighth and WRC returnee Henning Solberg has been setting some great times to overnight in ninth, despite the car dropping onto three cylinders. Martin Prokop rounds off the top 10.
Leading retirements of the day include Andreas Mikkelsen and Juho Hänninen, both off the road but hopefully able to re-join on Saturday under Rally 2 regulations.
Wales Rally GB – Unofficial Results after Section 2
|1. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||1hr 26min 28.9sec|
|2. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila||Volkswagen Polo R WRC||1hr 26min 35.5sec|
|3. Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1hr 27min42.7sec|
|4. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle||Citroën DS3 WRC||1hr 27min 50.4sec|
|5. Mads Østberg/Jonas Andersson||Citroën DS3 WRC||1hr 27min 51.1sec|
|6. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 WRC||1hr 28min 02.8sec|
|7. Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1hr 28min 19.2sec|
|8. Ott Tanak/Raigo Molder||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1hr 28min 58.3sec|
|9. Henning Solberg/Ilka Minor||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1hr 29min 08.4sec|
|10. Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||1hr 29min 18.7sec|
* Subject to the official publication of the results by the FIA