Finn in command as sweltering heat turns to rain while Novikov shows what might have been.
Jari-Matti Latvala is on course for his first victory with VW in the World Rally Championship after extending his lead on Greece’s Rally Acropolis during Saturday’s stages.
The Finn’s advantage over Citroen’s Dani Sordo grew to more than a minute during the afternoon as some stages – already brutal by nature – became even more treacherous when heavy rain turned the road surface to mud. Spaniard Sordo ended the day just over 40 seconds clear of third-placed Thierry Neuville in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
Latvala said: “It’s looking good for us but anything can happen on this rally. Last year I got a puncture which cost me the win. Tomorrow I need to keep it under control and drive accordingly to the road conditions.
“If it’s OK to go quick I will go quick and be careful to back off when it gets really rough, but it would be nice to win this rally – it’s a very famous one and it’s where I had my first drive in a WRC car ten years ago when I was just 18. I think tonight I will sleep well – I’m certainly feeling pretty tired after today.”
Behind the frontrunners, there are several close battles to keep an eye on when the event’s final four stages – including the bonus-scoring Power Stage – take place on Sunday. M-Sport’s Nasser Al Attiyah in fourth is just 25 seconds clear of VW’s Andreas Mikkelsen. M-Sport is also now on course to make it three cars in the top six after Mads Ostberg – delayed on Friday night with damage to his car – moved into sixth past Jipocar Ford driver Martin Prokop on Saturday’s final stage.
After steering problems with his Citroen on Friday, Mikko Hirvonen is under pressure in eighth from the recovering Evgeny Novikov, who badly damaged his M-Sport Fiesta while leading on Saturday morning. After repairs at the midday service halt the Russian has shown what might have been by setting two more fastest stage times.
Championship leader Sebastien Ogier, more than ten minutes off the lead after his VW stopped on Friday night, is finally into the points in tenth overall and set the fastest time on Saturday’s final stage.
Former Formula One star Robert Kubica is still well ahead in the WRC2 category and 11th overall in his Citroen. Both Ogier and Kubica gained a place when Khalid Al Qassimi rolled his Citroen DS3 out of the event.
Sunday’s closing loop of four stages, all in hills close to host coastal resort Loutraki, get under way at 10.20am local time.
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