LEÓN, Mexico: Jari-Matti Latvala was on course for his maiden Rally of Mexico victory and first points of the season on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) after more than doubling his lead over Volkswagen team-mate and triple world champion Sebastien Ogier.
After the 19th stage of the dust-choked race, Latvala was 1:35.7sec ahead of his French stable-mate having been 32 seconds in front overnight.
“The fight is out, all I can do now is finish the rally. There’s nothing more for me to get now,” Ogier said after the 16th stage.
He has suffered throughout the race by having to start each stage from the front.
Ogier, the winner of the first two rounds of this year’s world championship in Monte Carlo and Sweden, was effectively “sweeping” the route clean of gravel and dust to the benefit of his rivals.
Ogier did win the last two super-stages of the night and Latvala wasn’t complacent despite his commanding position going into the final two stages on Sunday (Monday in Manila), including one at 80 kilometers, the longest in the championship since 1983.
“I know I can lose one second per kilometer in the longest stage,” Latvala said.
The Finn also knows he must avoid the kind of accident that saw team-mate Andreas Mikkel¬sen of Norway leave the road in the 15th stage, when he was battling for third place.
That podium spot was in the hands of Spain’s Dani Sordo at the end of the day – 2:40.4 behind Latvala.