Latvala, Loeb battle set for final day
Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Loeb are set to fight it out for the Wales Rally GB victory on the final day of the 2011 World Rally Championship season.
Latvala overhauled his Citroen rival during Saturday afternoon’s stages, and will head to Day 4 with a 6.1s advantage.
With Loeb having been assured of an eighth consecutive championship following the retirement of Mikko Hirvonen on Friday, Loeb admitted that his best had simply not been good enough to keep pace with the Finn on the sodden Welsh roads.
“I cannot do anything,” said Loeb.
“Maybe he’s much better than me or maybe we are cleaning a bit but I did the perfect stage.
“If you watch on the video you can find no mistake anywhere. We have to continue, anything is possible.”
Six stages remain on the final day, with Latvala determined to finally take his first win of the 2011 season.
“It’s going really well and tomorrow morning I need to wake up with a very clean head,” said Latvala.
“I have got a good confidence and I’m so hungry for the victory.”
Stobart Ford driver Mads Ostberg continues to hold down third position, some 2:43.9s adrift of the lead, while team-mate Henning Solberg is fourth.
Kris Meeke is fifth for Mini, despite suffering engine problems in the morning, while Matthew Wilson (Stobart Ford), Dennis Kuipers (FERM Ford), Ott Tanak (M-Sport Ford), Evgeny Novikov (Abu Dhabi Ford) and Ken Block (Monster Ford) rounding out the top 10.
Australia’s Molly Taylor finished the WRC Academy Trophy segment of the rally in fifth place after a tricky final day.
“The first stage was a bit messy, the second stage was good and the third was possibly the best stage I’ve ever driven,” said Taylor.
This came off the back of a strong opening day, including a fastest stage time.
Fellow Aussie Brendan Reeves completed the event in 14th after drive-shaft failure on the previous day and he was forced to re-start at the back.
“It was hard this morning; we had to pass a lot of cars,” said Reeves.
“It was like stock car racing!
“Fortunately we weren’t held up too much as other crews let us go through easily. It took some time before we got back in the groove, although my foot slipped off the brake a couple of times on the Sweet Lamb stage. We overshot a couple of junctions.”
Winner of the WRC Academy on the rally and the championship was Ireland’s Craig Breen who will receive EURO500,000 towards his plans for 2012.