WRC Rally Australia: Ostberg leads, Neuville title bid hits trouble

Mads Ostberg continues to lead the World Rally Championship's Rally Australia after Friday's afternoon loop, while a puncture has damaged Thierry Neuville's title hopes

WRC Rally Australia: Ostberg leads, Neuville title bid hits trouble

Citroen driver Ostberg continued to benefit from running last in the order, emerging from the repeat of this morning's stages with a 6.2 seconds lead over Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala and team-mate Craig Breen, who topped the final forest stage of the day.

In contrast to Ostberg, Neuville has his work cut out now he is set to sweep the road on Saturday after ending the loop well over a minute off the pace thanks to dramas in SS6.

The loop started out as a see-sawing battle between Ogier and Neuville for ninth overall - the pair split by 6.5s - as the M-Sport driver using a slightly softer tyre mix to pull a second back on his Hyundai rival on the first stage.

Neuville then hit back on the Coldwater stage by going 1.6s faster than Ogier and moving into seventh.

But the final test proved costly for Neuville as he lost 21s when he ran into a chicane, before finishing the stage with a left-rear puncture and significant bodywork damage after an awkward landing from a jump.

As a result he was 40s slower than Ogier on the stage, and will suffer in terms of road order on Saturday thanks to sitting 10th in the overall standings with a 1m12s deficit to Ostberg.

Ogier finished the loop seventh after M-Sport team-mates Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen both slowed at the end of SS6 to drop behind the Frenchman in a bid to improve his Saturday running order position, having swept the road all day on Friday.

"I push like crazy, this was worse than this morning," said Ogier. "I was on the limit, including on the jump."

As in the morning loop, Ott Tanak was the best of the title contenders, despite dealing with a significantly damaged Yaris.

Tanak's afternoon started in promising fashion as the championship outsider topped the second pass through Orara East despite clipping a fence post with the rear of his car early on the test.

The Yaris was then left without a front bar after Tanak hit the water splash in SS5 too hard, leaving the car "running like a dog" for the 16-mile Sherwood pass.

But he was still quicker than Ogier through the stage, and currently sits fifth overall, behind Hayden Paddon.

Toyota team-mate Esapekka Lappi had dramas at the same creek as Tanak, his Yaris rolling to a stop after its engine ingested a significant amount of water.

He managed to get going again, but dropped 22s on the stage and fell from second in the overall standings to sixth.

Leading positions after SS6

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 50m47.3s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 6.2s
3 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 7.5s
4 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 9.7s
5 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 19.9s
6 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 29.0s
7 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 41.7s
8 Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 45.2s
9 Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 45.4s
10 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1m12.8s

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