WRC Australia: Latvala leads, Tanak off as Ogier on track for title

Jari-Matti Latvala leads Rally Australia after his Toyota team-mate Ott Tanak went off the road on Sunday morning, while Sebastien Ogier remains favourite for the World Rally Championship title

WRC Australia: Latvala leads, Tanak off as Ogier on track for title

Latvala set a stunning pace on the first stage of the morning, SS19 Coramba, as he attempted to fend off a potential charge from Kiwi Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon.

But Latvala took 13.9 seconds out of Paddon in that first stage of the loop alone, putting him in position to inherit the lead on the next test.

Tanak was caught out by a tightening right-hander which hindered multiple crews. However he got deep into the undergrowth half-way through the corner, and had to reverse to get back out onto the road.

He lost his 12.6s lead and trails Latvala by five seconds at the end of the morning's running.

Latvala had been told to remain behind Ott Tanak when the latter was leading, as Tanak has to win to have any hope of the WRC title.

The Toyota team now have to decide whether to switch Latvala and Tanak this afternoon, to give Tanak the best possible chance of a title.

Paddon went quickest on SS20 Sapphire in his i20 WRC, and trails Tanak by 14.6s at the end of the morning's action.

If Toyota wants to switch its drivers, it must make sure it has time in hand, as Paddon is within striking distance.

Toyota is leading the manufacturers standings and will not want to hand any points to Hyundai and Paddon.

Citroen's Mads Ostberg moved further clear of Esapekka Lappi's Toyota to hold fourth ahead of the Finn.

Ostberg's Citroen is 28s behind Paddon, and 10.5s clear of Lappi - who set a fastest time on SS21 Wedding Bells to end the morning.

Ogier is sitting in an all important sixth place.

As long as he stays there, whatever Tanak does will not be enough to rob the Frenchman of a sixth world title.

He managed to avoid many of the tricky areas that caught out others and was sixth, seventh and seventh fastest respectively over the three stages. He is 21.6s ahead of Elfyn Evans and - crucially - 39.2s ahead of Thierry Neuville.

As long as Ogier remains in sixth and ahead of Neuville, he will take the title. Neuville had a difficult morning.

On the first stage of the loop - SS19 Coramba - he took nine seconds out of Elfyn Evans ahead of him, despite sliding wide into a bank.

But on the following test he lost around 10s when he ran wide and had to reverse.

The third M-Sport Ford of Teemu Suninen fell behind Neuville on Saturday afternoon, and remains adrift in ninth ahead of the second Citroen of Craig Breen.

C3 WRC driver Breen had a nightmare morning, leaving the road on three different occasions.

After clipping an unsighted tree trunk on the last stage of the loop, Wedding Bells, his car began to gush oil and he was attempting to repair the car on the road section.

Results after SS21

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 2h33m38.4s
2 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 5.0s
3 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 19.6s
4 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 47.6s
5 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 58.1s
6 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 1m45.8s
7 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 2m07.3s
8 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 2m24.9s
9 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 3m24.7s
10 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 7m20.1s
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About this article

Series WRC
Drivers Jari-Matti Latvala , Sébastien Ogier , Ott Tanak
Author Jack Benyon
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