Motorsport: Latvala takes early lead in Rally NZ

Jari-Matti Latvala. Photo / Getty Images
Jari-Matti Latvala. Photo / Getty Images

Jari-Matti Latvala's choice of a later start in the running order at Rally New Zealand proved decisive as he opened a 2.8 second lead over Citroen's Mikko Hirvonen on stage one of the event this morning.

Latvala had the choice of running order after being fastest in yesterday's qualifying and chose 13th, the last of the WRC competitors. Amid fears of rain for today's opening day, many of his competitors opted for early starts.

Fellow works Citroen driver Sebastien Loeb selected start position three and Ford's Petter Solberg chose to start second.

Solberg opted for hard rather than soft tyres and lost 18 seconds on Latvala to sit in seventh.

Hirvonen was second fastest 2.8 seconds down and Loeb third 3.5 seconds behind Latvala.

"I know there are a couple of places where I went wide but it's okay,'' Latvala said. "I'm more worried about Petter losing so much time on this stage. I hope he won't suffer like that anymore. It's very difficult now for Petter on the next stage.''

Prodrive WRC Team Mini driver Dani Sordo also ran hard tyres, and was further slowed by a gear selection issue, putting him back in ninth behind Super 2000 World Rally Championship leader P-G Andersson's Proton.

Thierry Neuville, competing in the colours of the Qatar World Rally Team this weekend in Nasser Al-Attiyah's place, was fourth quickest in his Citroen DS3 WRC, ahead of M-Sport Ford duo Ott Tanak and Evgeny Novikov.

Outside the top 10, Jari Ketomaa lost half a minute after clipping a bank and sustaining a right rear puncture on his Autotek-run Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

- APNZ

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