WORLD CHAMPION SÉBASTIEN OGIER ENDED FRIDAY MORNING’S SLIPPERY OPENING LOOP OF WALES RALLY GB WITH A 9.5SEC LEAD OVER VOLKSWAGEN TEAM-MATE JARI-MATTI LATVALA.
STAGE INFO: SS3 / SS4SS3: Hafren Sweet Lamb 1, 23.55km
This mixes Hafren’s forest roads with the fan-favourite Sweet Lamb bowl, which is where the test finishes. It’s narrow at the start but fast and smooth throughout, with cambered edges to the road which will encourage drivers to cut.
SS4: Maesnant 1, 12.86kmMuch of this stage in Hafren Forest comprises roads used in the opposite direction to last year. It’s smooth and quick, especially in the final 2km, and drivers will again use camber to guide them through corners at maximum speed.
Although Latvala responded to Ogier’s opening blast with fastest time in Hafren Sweet Lamb, the Frenchman made it three wins out of four with quickest time in Maesnant to reach remote service in Newtown in a happy frame of mind.
“It was a good morning, we’ve gone well and the car feels good,” said the Polo R driver. “The last section of SS4 was very, very tricky. It was so slippery and very fast also.”After outpacing his colleague by 2.2sec in Hafren, a mistake just 160 metres into Maesnant ruined Latvala’s chances of closing further. “I overshot the first junction and lost four or five seconds. I’m annoyed with that,” said the Finn.
Mads Østberg remained third in a Citroen DS3, although the Norwegian was already 40.1sec off the lead. He was in a close fight with Mikko Hirvonen’s Ford Fiesta RS, just 4.5sec splitting the duo.
Third fastest in Maesnant promoted Kris Meeke’s DS3 to fifth, a further 7.7sec behind, although the Northern Irishman was querying a 10sec jump start penalty in SS1.Thierry Neuville was sixth, just 0.6sec behind Meeke, with Elfyn Evans, Ott Tänak, Hayden Paddon and Martin Prokop completing the leaderboard.
Juho Hänninen retired his Hyundai i20 after going off in Hafren Sweet Lamb while Robert Kubica lost time in Maesnant after spinning at the same hairpin as Latvala and later missing a junction. Henning Solberg spun in SS4, the Norwegian struggling with an intermittent misfire in his Fiesta RS.
Jari Ketomaa leads WRC 2 in a Fiesta R5 by 29.6sec from Tom Cave, but third-placed Nasser Al-Attiyah remains on target for the title.