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Rally Australia: WRC drivers slam night stage safety

Leading World Rally Championship drivers have slammed Rally Australia organisers for the decision to run a night stage

The Valla test was run in its entirety in darkness with dust clouds making the stage - in the WRC drivers' eyes - unacceptably dangerous.

Rally leader Sebastien Ogier told AUTOSPORT: "Night stages on gravel shouldn't happen, for safety it's not good.

"We all said it before the event to the organiser: 'Please think about it, maybe this is not the best idea...'

"And especially on this kind of ground, which is so dusty. Even though they give us five minutes [between cars], OK it was not a nightmare, but it's not the safest condition."

Kris Meeke had led the event ahead of the stage, but dropped to second - 0.3 seconds behind Ogier - in the tough conditions.

Rally Australia Saturday report: Ogier deposes Meeke from lead

The Citroen DS 3 WRC driver was furious afterwards, stepping from his car to remonstrate with FIA officials Michele Mouton and Jarmo Mahonen at the end of the stage.

Meeke refused to talk to the radio and television crews on site and could barely conceal his fury by the time he returned to service.

Asked about the incident, Meeke still declined to go into detail, simply saying: "It's a disgrace."

So keen was the organiser to run the stage that the three-minute gaps between the factory cars were increased to an unprecedented five minutes for this test.

OGIER POISED FOR TITLE

Ogier heads a four-way battle for the lead into Sunday's final day, with Meeke second and Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen third and fourth.

Remaining in this position would mean a third world title for Ogier, though he wants to secure it with rally victory.

"It's incredible how close the competition is," he said, "and tomorrow, we will push again - we must if we are to win the rally."

After running first or second on the road for the last two days, Ogier was delighted to be leading.

"I knew I had a big challenge to overcome this cleaning," he said.

"To be in the lead tonight is an amazing performance and I'm sure that everyone who follows motorsport closely will have noticed it and I'm sure my rivals would have seen what we have done for two days.

"That's great, but we still have to do it tomorrow."

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