Ogier leads as Latvala turns up the pressure

by Vince Pettit

Sebastian Ogier is looking good to clinch the Drivers’ Championship this weekend despite the best efforts of Volkswagen team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala who took four stage wins out of six.

With the gravel stages out of the way on Friday the attention turned to the high speed tarmac stages as road temperatures hit 35°C in the Spanish sun.

Latvala showed great pace throughout the day and the pressure forced Ogier to step things up, on the second pass through the 50km Escaladei stage the championship leader suffered a delaminated tyre, forcing him to drive the remaining 20km with a severe vibration.

“I have to congratulate Jari-Matti because he did a good job,” said Ogier to WRC.com. “The plan was to control from the front but there were sections I didn’t control too much because I had to drive very fast to stay with him. He was flying, but my plan was to have a 20sec lead tonight and we have more than that so it’s good.”

Behind the leading Volkswagens’ M-Sports Mikko Hirvonen picked up the pace to secure third place as the cars returned to the service park in the evening.

Throughout the day the battle for third place saw a three-way fight emerge with Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Østberg pushing hard. A spin and a damaged tyre would force Mikkelsen tout of the battle when he had to stop to change tyres while Østberg fell to fourth.

Local hero Dani Sordo brought his Hyundai i20 to within 22.1 seconds of Østberg, with Thierry Neuville recovering to sixth place after problems on the opening day.

Mikkelsen’s bad luck would drop him to seventh place ahead of Martin Prokop, Hayden Paddon and Yuriy Protasov.

Robert Kubica experienced a tough day when he was forced to complete the opening stage with only front-wheel driver after breaking a differential warming up his tyres before the stage. There would be more misfortune for him later in the day when he was forced to retire after ripping a front wheel from the car.

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