Final day of WRC for 2011 beckons: Loeb and Latvala set for duel!

Day Three of the World Rally Championship’s 2011 season finale, the Wales Rally GB, concluded this evening with Ford Abu Dhabi’s only remaining Finn in the rally, Jari-Matti Latvala, at the top of the rally leader board.

Sebastien Loeb (Citroën Total World Rally Team) slowed his pace over the last two speed tests to allow Latvala to take the lead. Was this an act of tactics on the part of the French? It seems so, as Latvala will now have to serve as road sweeper over the final six stages of the rally tomorrow. The 6.1sec advantage Latvala holds over Loeb will most likely not be enough for the Finnish ace to rely on for a rally win, but Loeb might ease back even more on Day Four to not push himself into a mistake to secure his podium result. This, however, is unlikely as Loeb is a fierce competitor!

Shining brightly in third place overall is Norway’s Mads Ostberg (M-Sport Stobart Ford World Rally Team), beating off the challenge of fellow countryman Petter Solberg (Petter Solberg World Rally Team), and the sizzling battle between the two came to an abrupt end during this morning’s loops of three stages when Solberg was forced to park his Citroën DS3 WRC at the side of the road due to a fuel line failure.

Kimi Raikkonen (Ice1 Racing) retired from Day Three after crashing into a ditch. this might just be his last WRC performance, as rumours of his return to Formula One have reached fever pitch this weekend in both the WRC Service Park and at the Formula One circus in Abu Dhabi today.

Ott Tanak (DMack Ford Fiesta RS WRC) continues to impress in eighth place overall in his WRC category debut, but he has slipped behind Dennis Kuipers (FERM Power Tools World Rally Team) during the course of today’s action. The two are separated by only 4.9sec.

In the WRC Academy series, Craig Breen powered to a fine victory. He finished a whopping 4min 36sec ahead of his nearest rival, Egon Kaur. Breen has also won the inaugural WRC Academy Class!

In the Production Car World Rally Championship standings this evening, Patrik Flodin has cemented his grip on the Class with a stunning performance to finish 04min 37sec ahead of PWRC rival Martin Semerad.

All eyes have also been on Kevin Abbring (Skoda Fabia S2000)as he has proven to be the fastest of the Class S2000 and Class N4 machines this weekend in his debut behind the steering wheel of a Skoda Fabia as part of Volkswagen’s pre-WRC test campaign.

Tomorrow the rally takes in six stages and 84.04km of competitive distance in the muddy and damp conditions.

WRC standings at the end of Day Three:
01) J-M. Latvala – 02h 38m 37.9s
02) S. Loeb + 06.1s
03) M. Ostberg + 02m 43.9s
04) H. Solberg + 05m 35.0s
05) K. Meeke + 06m 20.0s
06) M. Wilson + 07m 05.6s
07) D. Kuipers + 07m 57.4s
08) O. Tanak + 08m 02.3s
09) E. Novikov + 08m 22.3s
10) K. Block + 13m 24.7s

PWRC standings after Day Three:
01) P. Flodin – 02h 56m 00.0s
02) M. Semerad + 04m 37.7s
03) B. Guerra + 06m 49.9s
04) N. Fuchs + 11m 11.2s
05) D. Tagirov + 11m 22.7s
06) M. Al Shamsi + 11m 46.6s
07) M. Kosciuszko + 12m 18.5s
08) J. Pritchard + 15m 03.2s
09) O. Kikireshko + 18m 00.8s
10) H. Hunt + 19m 48.5s

WRC Academy Overall Classification:
01) C. Breen – 03h 06m 10.7s
02) E. Kaur + 4m 36.1s
03) A. Fisher + 07m 04.0s
04) C. Reidemann + 08m 51.1s
05) M. Taylor + 10m 54.3s
06) S. Karyakin + 13m 26.2s
07) V. Hummel + 16m 53.5s
08) A. Crugnola + 19m 03.1s
09) Y. Lemes + 19m 08.8s
10) M. Niinemae + 24m 05.2s

Atmosphere from the WRC Wales Rally GB - Picture by Citroën Racing.