World Rally Championship: Sebastien Ogier takes a comfortable lead in the Rally Italia Sardegna
Last Updated: 08/06/14 3:41pm
Sebastien Ogier took a comfortable lead in the Rally Italia Sardegna after a minor accident on Saturday's last stage cost Volkswagen colleague Jari-Matti Latvala more than two minutes.
Latvala had set the pace late on Friday but battled brake problems throughout Saturday's action, allowing his French team-mate to close the gap.
Worse was to follow for the Finn on the day's 59-kilometre closing stage, though, when he damaged a rear wheel. He changed the tyre and was able to limp home but the time lost saw him drop to ninth place and seemingly handed Ogier his fourth win in six races this season.
Ogier, the series' reigning champion after nine race wins last year, leads by a minute and 40 seconds going into Sunday's four short stages.
Mads Ostberg is second for Citroen, with Latvala a further 21 seconds behind the Norwegian in third.
Latvala began the day 22.4 seconds ahead and extended that advantage by 6.3 seconds on the day's opening stage, but Ogier pulled 11 seconds back on the next.
The gap closed to 12.3 seconds as Ogier stepped up the pressure on stage 12, after which Latvala's engine stalled.
"We don't know the reason, whether it was my fault or a technical thing," he told wrc.com. “Now it's a matter of saving the tyres in the long one."
He was unable to do that, though, as an error after just eight kilometres caused a problem which would affect him for the remainder of the colossal stage.
Two minutes slipped away quickly, dropping him down the field, and though he managed to hold steady and limit the arrears his chances in the race would appear to be over.
"It was my mistake," he said afterwards. "The rear end came out of the ruts and we touched a rock. We damaged a wheel and had to change the tyre.
"But I would not have been able to fight for the victory. I had a brake problem which was like yesterday."
A second Norwegian driver, Andreas Mikkelsen, steered his Volkswagen to fourth place with Welshman Elfyn Evans fifth for the M-Sport World Rally team, benefiting from Ford's ex-Formula One driver Robert Kubica losing a wheel in a crash on stage 12.
Northern Irishman Kris Meeke ended the day 16th in his Citroen and said of the long final stage: "I changed the set-up in service and I did not enjoy it all. I couldn't get into a rhythm, braking too early. I didn't drive well but okay, it's good experience."
Hyundai's Hayden Paddon was eighth after stage 12 but had to retire after suffering engine troubles in the next.