Jari-Matti Latvala once again increased his lead to Sébastien Ogier as both Volkswagen drivers pushed hard over the smoother stages in the Calamuchita Valley.
Latvala was able to open up a 31.2 second lead by the end of the evenings superspecial stage with just four stages to tackle on Sunday.
Both VW drivers drove hard as they battled for victory, but made mistakes on the San Agustin stage. Latvala and Ogier both spun, while Latvala briefly stalled. The Finn recalled his run: “I spun, about 5km from the start, just after a hairpin. The car tucked into the corner and I spun. Then in the last 5-6km, coming into a bridge, I stalled the engine.”
Defending Champion Ogier encountered his biggest problems on SS8 when flailing rubber from his front left tyre hit the wing of his VW Polo R and damaged it. Back at service Ogier questioned the tyres: “It wasn’t a puncture. On the straight, the rubber went out but the pressure is still there. Perhaps something is wrong with the manufacturer?”
That wasn’t the end of the Frenchman’s woes though, on the next stage the bumper and spoiler unit fell off. This particular incident led to a cooling problem which saw the Polo’s engine overheat and head into road safety mode, which made Ogier lose six valuable seconds.
Kris Meeke is currently more than three minutes off the leading VW’s pace but was able to hold on to third throughout the day. Meeke however will no doubt be looking over his shoulder at a hard charging Andreas Mikkelsen. Mikkelsen cut the gap to the lead Citroen down to 1m56s from 2m51s at the start of the day to keep hopes alive of a VW podium sweep.
One of the biggest movers of the day was the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville who recovered under Rally 2 after Friday issues. The Belgian was able to move back up into fifth ahead of the cautious M-Sport of Robert Kubica who was still able to pull away from his team-mate Elfyn Evans in seventh, ahead of Martin Prokop.
Mikko Hirvonen and Mads Ostberg were able to pull their way back up the standings following their Friday accidents. Ostberg ended the day tenth but is currently suffering with pain in his right hand following his crash on day one. Hirvonen currently sits in eleventh.
Dani Sordo however, wasn’t as lucky as others drivers making their way back up the order. Continuous technical issues forced the Spaniard to retire his car.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala VW 3h33m19.1s
2. Sebastien Ogier VW +31.2s
3. Kris Meeke Citroen +3m47.0s
4. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +5m43.0s
5. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +6m40.9s
6. Robert Kubica M-Sport Ford +7m14.4s
7. Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ford +7m52.0s
8. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +8m20.9s
9. Nasser Al-Attiyah M-Sport Ford +16m20.6s*
10. Mads Ostberg Citroen +20m35.8s