WRC Rally Australia: Jari-Matti Latvala takes lead from Kris Meeke

Jari-Matti Latvala took the Rally Australia lead from Kris Meeke on Friday's final stage, with Sebastien Ogier also closing in on the leaders and a third World Rally Championship title

WRC Rally Australia: Jari-Matti Latvala takes lead from Kris Meeke

Latvala - who needs to outscore Ogier by 10 points this weekend to delay his Volkswagen team-mate's 2015 WRC coronation - reeled off fastest times on the afternoon loop's first three stages to move up from fifth to second.

Citroen driver Meeke still looked like he had enough in hand to hang onto the overnight lead.

But after profiting from a cleaner surface on the previous three stages, the drivers further down the starting order found themselves struggling for visibility as dust hung in the air under the trees on the 18.3-mile Newry Long closer.

Meeke lost 6.5 seconds to Latvala on that stage and fell to second overall in the process, 2s behind the VW.

He is now just 2.6s ahead of Ogier as well. The champion had been as low as eighth in the morning and felt this was the toughest rally to be first on the road all season.

But he minimised the time loss on the first three stages and then blitzed Newry Long, where he beat Latvala by 4.7s and Meeke by 11.2s to bring himself right into lead contention.

Latvala was not too concerned by his team-mate's burst of pace, saying he had anticipated that Newry Long would be Ogier's strongest stage so used the best of his tyres on the previous three where his team-mate was disadvantaged.

After running one-two for most of the morning, the Hyundais of Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon have slipped back to fifth and sixth behind Andreas Mikkelsen in the third VW.

Sordo joined Meeke in bemoaning the lack of visibility on Newry Long, while Paddon ended the afternoon convinced something was broken on his i20 as he struggled with strange handling.

Their team-mate Thierry Neuville is up to seventh ahead of Ott Tanak after a spin on the Bakers Creek stage for the M-Sport Ford and then handling dramas Tanak felt might be a sign of differential problems.

Citroen substitute Stephane Lefebvre was running ninth until breaking his suspension on a rock on Newry Long, which will mean he saves Ogier the pain of running first on the road on Saturday.

Elfyn Evans, delayed by a morning puncture and day-long discomfort with his car, and Lorenzo Bertelli complete the opening day top 10, with Nasser Al-Attiyah leading WRC2.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS8:

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