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Rally Italy SS 5: Latvala takes lead

Rally leader Thierry Neuville was cool, calm and collected in SS4. But in SS5, things unraveled spectacularly. The Hyundai driver stopped 4.1km into the 27.30km ‘Loelle 1’ stage and spent an eternity working on a mechanical problem that had struck his i20 WRC. He did eventually get to the end of the stage, but he had lost the rally lead after dropping 23 minutes.

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Under normal circumstances, Neuville’s impressive team-mate Juho Hanninen would have inherited the rally lead. But he also hit trouble in the same stage. Hanninen rolled his i20 WRC and was unable to get to the end of the stage. His rally was over.

Jari-Matti Latvala was the man that benefitted more than anyone else on SS5. The Finn had cured his earlier brake problems and promptly went fastest by some distance. And with all the drama at the head of the field, he unbelievably leapt into the rally lead after holding sixth place at the stage start. “There has been a lot of drama in the Loelle stage,” he said. “It’s a bit of a surprise that I am in the lead now but this is the rally; it’s very difficult with the grip levels.”

Kris Meeke was also another casualty in SS5 as he stopped 5km from the end of the test. The suspicion was that the battery warning light that came on at the end of SS4 had turned into some more serious and had brought his rally to a premature end after he failed to make the stage finish line.