Toyota tells Latvala to play rear-gunner to boost Tanak's title hopes

Toyota has told Jari-Matti Latvala to play rear-gunner for Ott Tanak on the final day of Rally Australia to reduce pressure on the leader and World Rally Championship title contender

Toyota tells Latvala to play rear-gunner to boost Tanak's title hopes

He and Tanak were instructed not to concentrate on each other's times heading into Saturday's second loop of stages, Latvala having come out of the morning loop with a 3.2s lead.

But it was then expected that the team would reverse their positions on Sunday if it would help Tanak seal the title ahead of Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville.

That will no longer be necessary after a decision to only take a single spare tyre into the afternoon loop backfired for Latvala.

As a result, the new instruction from Toyota is to not take the fight to Tanak tomorrow and instead Latvala is set to focus on the 4s gap to Hayden Paddon in third and leave Tanak at the front of the field.

"I made a mistake. I should have taken two spares, I only had one," explained Latvala after the forecasted rain did not appear and temperatures were warmer than expected.

He suffered higher-than-expected wear before an ill-timed rain shower during the evening superspecial stage dropped him more than 20s behind Tanak.

"That was a mistake. I didn't think the tyre wear would be that bad, but it was warmer, the rain didn't come that looked like it would appear. So I was running out of tyres in Urunga.

"If I had of had a second spare I would have been able to push harder. On the other hand, we had a meeting in the team and basically before going out to the stage they said no competition between each other, you can only follow the other guys and what they are doing.

"We realise that it would be better for Ott to win this event because he might still have a chance to win the title if something goes wrong with Thierry or Sebastien."

Hyundai driver Paddon added that the ongoing threat of rain was a motivation to close run the 26s gap to the lead Yaris.

"Tomorrow, if it's raining, 20 seconds is nothing," Paddon said. "There is still a long way to go."

Tanak's hopes of snaring a first WRC title currently rest on winning both the rally itself and the powerstage tomorrow afternoon.

As it stands, Ogier is six points clear of Tanak on live points, which means he can win the title by holding position, regardless of what happens on the powerstage.

Ogier, in sixth, has a 20s gap back to Elfyn Evans, who has already slowed once to let his M-Sport team-mate through for road position.

Thierry Neuville is down in eighth, and problems for Ogier and Tanak is his best hope.

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WRC Rally Australia: Rain on superspecial shakes up leading battle

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About this article

Series WRC
Drivers Jari-Matti Latvala , Ott Tanak
Teams Toyota Racing
Author Andrew van Leeuwen
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