Jari-Matti Latvala skidded on ice and collided with a roadside barrier at the Wales Rally on Saturday to lose six seconds as world champion Sebastien Loeb closed the gap in second place.
Driving a Ford Focus, Latvala recovered from the collision on stage 13 to lead by 10.8 seconds on the next stage. But he finished 14th in the final special stage of the day at Millennium Stadium and Loeb had cut his lead to 7.3 seconds going into the final two stages of the last rally of the championship.
“I don’t want to be in front tomorrow morning,” Latvala said. “The best place to be is behind somebody else, but if I am first out there I just have to do my very, very best.”
Icy conditions have made conditions tough throughout and the organizers have had to shorten some stages after having canceled the first one on Friday.
“It was under-braking and we hit sheet ice,” Latvala said of his skid on stage 13. “I couldn’t do anything and we hit the barrier on my side of the car. Luckily, we bounced back into the road so we didn’t lose too much time. It’s difficult to find the balance between attacking and staying on the road.”
Loeb, who has already clinched a fifth world title in his Citroen, now has a chance to win 11 of the 15 races for the first time.
MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi finished 15th, only 10 minutes off the lead, after his switch from two wheels to four.
“Today started off well and I had a really great feeling in the first stage,” the Italian said after he made up eight places overall.