Latvala closes on Germany victory

28

Jari-Matti Latvala is edging closer to Volkswagen's first World Rally Championship victory on home soil with just one more loop of stages remaining in Germany. With team-mate and title rival Sebastien Ogier out of the picture following his rally-ending crash, Latvala confessed he had adopted a more cautious approach to his driving during Saturday afternoon's tests, but even so, he took three stage victories. He will begin the final day of the event with a comfortable 56.6-second advantage over Citroen's Kris Meeke, whose advantage over Hyundai rival Thierry Neuville dwindled from 8.0s at the interval to 4.3s during the course of the afternoon. Team-mate Dani Sordo slipped back from the fight for second after aquaplaning on the shortened Peterberg stage, which was reduced in length after roadside barrier Ogier damaged in the morning could not be repaired in time. Andreas Mikkelsen maintained his fifth place overall during the afternoon and took advantage of Sordo's misfortune to be just 5.5s behind the Spaniard at the end of the penultimate day. Currently sitting in sixth is M-Sport Ford man Mikko Hirvonen, who demoted team-mate Elfyn Evans on the Stein & Wein stage before upping his pace and 4.9s separates them overnight. Hot on the Welshman's heels is Mads Ostberg, with the Norwegian in the mix all afternoon long and just 1.2s behind in eighth. Ford Privateer Martin Prokop and Robert Kubica moved up the order at the end of the Panzerplatte stage after Hyundai debutant Bryan Bouffier went off at approximately 27 kms into the daunting test. Hyundai reported that Bouffier and co-driver Xavier Panseri were fine, but has yet to confirm the state of the i20 or whether they will be returning under Rally 2 conditions on Sunday.