WRC – Østberg maintains lead for Citroën; Neuville’s title hopes take a blow | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC – Østberg maintains lead for Citroën; Neuville’s title hopes take a blow

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Rally Australia - Friday afternoon

The final and title deciding round of the FIA World Rally Championship continues to deliver drama but Mads Østberg has stayed out of trouble to lead Rally Australia at the end of the opening day. The Norwegian now heads Craig Breen, who inched ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala by 1.9 seconds in the final super special stages.

This afternoon the crews headed back into the same three stages and then, returning to Coffs Harbour, took in two runs over the popular but tricky coastal super special stage. Different tyre strategies came into play but Østberg was delighted with a good day in a consistently performing car. Breen, now second, admitted to a couple of silly mistakes in the first of the repeated stages but a clean run through the remainder has rewarded the Irishman and given Citroën a provisional double podium. The second stage was a difficult one for Toyota, and Latvala, who played it safe through the water splash, was the only Yaris WRC driver to escape problems and this enabled him to move ahead of team-mate Esapekka Lappi to take second position earlier in the day. He maintained that place until the two super specials, where he then dropped behind Breen after clipping a bale.

Hayden Paddon continues to head Hyundai’s challenge, as the Korean marque battles with Toyota for the Manufacturers’ Championship.  The Kiwi was happy with his choice of tyres for the loop, despite the rubber coming off the rim in the second stage. He remains in the thick of the fight for the podium, 12.5 seconds adrift of Østberg. Championship outsider Ott Tänak climbed from sixth to fourth in the first stage this afternoon, despite clipping a fence post and damaging the rear end of the Yaris WRC. However, he then lost all the front aero devices on the second stage when he powered sideways into the water splash. He managed to maintain pace and climbed to third at the expense of team-mate Lappi but then dropped back to fifth after the final longest stage, the lack of aero front and rear hampering his charge. From second going into the loop, Lappi is now sixth, the same water splash causing him problems that dropped him to ninth. The young Finn’s engine ingested a lot of water and developed a misfire; he dropped over 20 seconds and was lucky to be able to continue. He is ahead of Championship contender Sebastien Ogier, the Frenchman climbing from 10th to seventh in the final gravel stage, courtesy of team orders to Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen who now sit directly behind him. He has struggled running first on the road and two extra positions from his team-mates, coupled with problems for Championship rival Thierry Neuville, will give him a better road position for tomorrow and some breathing space to the Belgian. Neuville was placed seventh but then in the last stage a tyre came off the rim after a jump and he then locked up under braking and ran straight into a straw bail and stalled. The resultant time loss dropped him to 10th, some 30 seconds behind Ogier.

The Chilean Heller brothers continue to top the FIA WRC 2 Championship standings, with Alberto heading Pedro by 20.6 seconds. Enrico Brazzoli, who provisionally won the FIA WRC 3 Championship on the last round in Spain, retired during the second loop for unconfirmed reasons.

Rally Australia – Unofficial results after Section 3


Mads Østberg / Torstein Eriksen

Citroen C3 WRC

53min 37.4sec


Craig Breen / Scott Martin

Citroen C3 WRC

53min 44.2sec


Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila

Toyota Yaris WRC

53min 46.1sec


Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

53min 49.9sec


Ott Tänak / Martin Järveoja

Toyota Yaris WRC

53min 54.3sec


Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm

Toyota Yaris WRC

54min 05.7sec


Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia

Ford Fiesta WRC

54min 15.6sec


Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt

Ford Fiesta WRC

54min 22.6sec


Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula

Ford Fiesta WRC

54min 24.6sec


Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul

Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

54min 49.3sec