Ogier leads, Mikkelsen out on SS2

SÉBASTIEN OGIER TOOK THE EARLY LEAD OF WALES RALLY GB AFTER POSTING FASTEST TIME THROUGH FRIDAY MORNING’S OPENING TWO SPECIAL STAGES IN GARTHEINIOG AND DYFI.STAGE INFO: SS1 / SS2

SS1: Gartheiniog 1, 14.58kmA classic test to start the 2014 rally. It’s fast with plenty of challenging corners and follows the same route as last year. The start is muddy with a series of junctions but the road improves noticeably for the final 4km.

Dyfi 1, 21.90kmAnother famous test that is identical to 2013. It’s fast and flowing on a good surface, but several corners hide puddles on the inside. It starts in the open before becoming narrower at 14.50km, and the final 2km are the toughest of the stage.

The newly-crowned world champion was 4.5sec faster than Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in the opener and 4.3sec up on Jari-Matti Latvala in Dyfi to hold an 8.9sec advantage over Latvala.

“I’m not perfectly happy with my driving but it was OK,” said Ogier. “The grip was OK in the second stage but the first one was more slippery than I expected.”Latvala was relieved to emerge from Dyfi. “We had a big moment. I hit a hole and was very lucky not to roll. I need to find the rhythm because I’m not driving well,” he said.

Heavy overnight rain ensured the forest roads were incredibly slippery and conditions worsened with the passage of every car, as Mikkelsen found to his cost in Dyfi.

“I was too fast over a crest and braked too late for the next corner. I hit the right rear and that pulled the nose into the ditch where we hit a bank,” said the Norwegian, who dropped more than 2min 30sec. He retired on the following liaison section.

Two fourth-fastest times for Mads Østberg put the Citroen DS3 pilot in third, but already 21.7sec down on Ogier. Mikko Hirvonen, driving his final event before retirement, was 1.4sec behind in fourth.

Fifth-placed Thierry Neuville reported no issues with his Hyundai i20 after a wiring loom problem following shakedown yesterday which meant the Belgian walked over the start podium last night but Henning Solberg emerged from Dyfi with his Fiesta RS running on three cylinders.

SS2 DYFI 1 (21.90 KM) stage times

POS # DRIVER TIME DIFF PREV DIFF 1ST1. 1 FRAS. OGIER 12:25.9 2. 2 FINJ. LATVALA 12:30.2 +4.3 +4.33. 5 FINM. HIRVONEN 12:39.0 +8.8 +13.14. 4 NORM. OSTBERG 12:39.8 +0.8 +13.95. 3 GBRK. MEEKE 12:40.8 +1.0 +14.96. 6 GBRE. EVANS 12:43.2 +2.4 +17.37. 7 BELT. NEUVILLE 12:43.4 +0.2 +17.58. 8 FINJ. HANNINEN 12:46.8 +3.4 +20.99. 20 NZLH. PADDON 12:50.9 +4.1 +25.010. 15 NORH. SOLBERG 12:54.6 +3.7 +28.711. 21 CZEM. PROKOP 12:56.2 +1.6 +30.312. 22 ESTO. TANAK 12:57.5 +1.3 +31.613. 10 POLR. KUBICA 13:02.5 +5.0 +36.614. 35 FINJ. KETOMAA 13:24.7 +22.2 +58.815. 40 UKRV. GORBAN 13:33.1 +8.4 +1:07.216. 83 GBRO. PRYCE 13:33.4 +0.3 +1:07.517. 81 GBRE. THORBURN 13:35.3 +1.9 +1:09.418. 36 ESTK. KRUUDA 13:38.0 +2.7 +1:12.119. 39 FRAQ. GILBERT 13:40.4 +2.4 +1:14.5