After fighting for a podium spot throughout the second leg, Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle were handed a penalty this evening, which meant they dropped to fifth overall at Rally Australia.
Meanwhile, Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson managed to move up into sixth position in the other Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team car.
There are six stages left to run before the rally finishes tomorrow in Coffs Harbour. Fourth this morning, Kris Meeke entered into a fascinating head-to-head battle with Andreas Mikkelsen. The two drivers swapped third place on several occasions during the leg. The Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team driver was particularly quick on the very long, 48km Nambucca test (SS11), grabbing the second best time on the stage. He remained fourth after SS14, just 1.5 seconds off the final podium spot, and less than thirty seconds behind the leader. However, a penalty would appear to have dashed his hopes of a top-three finish. Adjudged to have excessively cut across a corner, the Stewards handed him a 61-second penalty, putting him down into fifth place.
Motivated by the idea of showing his potential today, Mads Østberg moved ahead of Hayden Paddon at the start of the afternoon and into sixth place overall. Despite having to contend with a less than ideal road position, the Norwegian was the quickest driver outside of the top four fighting at that stage to win the rally.
Sunday’s final leg features six stages. Parc ferme opens at 6.50am (UTC+10), with crews tackling around a hundred timed sections, including the 9.23km Wedding Bells 2, which will serve as the Power Stage and be televised live. The rally is scheduled to finish in Coffs Harbour from 5.00pm.
QUOTE, UNQUOTEKris Meeke: “I did my best to stay on the pace. The second fastest time on this afternoon’s long stage shows that we have the capacity to be among the frontrunners. But we still have work to do to stay at the front. There are still a hundred or so kilometres to run tomorrow. We are going to keep fighting for every tenth of a second!”
Mads Østberg: “We had to a lot of sweeping today and that was reflected in the timesheets. The aim was to make up ground on Paddon. It was important to get back up to speed, then convert that into times and move back up into sixth position. We’ll need to keep going tomorrow although it’ll be difficult to do better than sixth. We’ll have a better starting position, so we’ll have to try and make the most of it…”
Yves Matton (Citroën Racing Team Principal): “Kris is continuing to do everything we have asked of him. He’s proving that he is one of the fastest drivers in this second half of the season by fighting at the front. He was less than thirty seconds behind the leader although the pace is incredibly high. As regards Mads, he produced a good performance, despite having a starting position that forced him to do a lot of sweeping.”
HOW THE ACTION UNFOLDEDSS9 – Nambucca 1 (48.92km) – The first run on the rally’s longest stage gave Jari-Matti Latvala the chance to reclaim first place overall from Sébastien Ogier. Kris Meeke set the third fastest time to move back into third overall. Mads Østberg managed to make up ground on Hayden Paddon in sixth.
SS10 – Valls 1 (10.72km) – Jari-Matti Latvala took a second consecutive stage win to extend his overall lead. Behind the leader, Andreas Mikkelsen moved back ahead of Kris Meeke, whilst Mads Østberg set a time within a second of Paddon.
SS11 – Nambucca 2 (48.92km) – In the second loop, Sébastien Ogier turned things around from the morning pass to reclaim first place. Kris Meeke set the second-fastest time to stay in touch with the top three. Mads Østberg also took advantage of this long test to move into sixth overall.
SS12 – Valla 2 (10.72km) – Sébastien Ogier consolidated his first position with another stage win. Kris Meeke moved back ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen and into third place. Fifth-fastest on the stage, Mads Østberg moved further clear of Hayden Paddon and closer to Mikko Hirvonen.
SS13 and SS14 – SSS III and SSSIV (1.56km/1.56km) – Sébastien Ogier was the quickest on the two evening stages, tied for the first stage win with Andreas Mikkelsen on SS13. The Norwegian grabbed third place back from Kris Meeke, whilst Mads Østberg held onto sixth place.
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 21. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:03:55.3
2. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +11.8
3. Andreas Mikkelsen / Ola Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +25.3
4. Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:27.2
5. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +1.27.8
6. Mads Østberg / Jonas Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:08.2
7. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:15.5
8. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:52.4
9. Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:59.0
10. Robert Kubica / Maciej Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:59.2…
Sébastien Ogier, 8 (including 1 tied) – Jari-Matti Latvala, 4 – Kris Meeke, 2 – Andreas Mikkelsen,1 (including 1 tied).
SS1, SS2, SS7, SS8, SS11 to SS14: Sébastien Ogier
SS3 to SS6: Kris Meeke
SS9 and SS10: Jari-Matti Latvala