COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — World champion Sebastien Ogier of France took an 11.8-second lead over Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala going into Sunday’s final six stages of Rally Australia.
Another Volkswagen driver, Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway, was 25.3 seconds behind Saturday, followed by Citroen driver Kris Meeke of Northern Ireland, who was another 1.5 seconds back in fourth place.
Ogier and Finnish driver Latvala need five points for Volkswagen to clinch the manufacturers’ championship. Ogier leads Latvala by 44 points for the drivers’ title.
Latvala had a 4.1-second lead after the opening two stages Saturday, but saw that advantage wiped out after a wrong decision on tires for the 48.92-kilometer (30-mile) third stage of the day.
Forecasters suggested rain was likely, prompting Latvala to opt for two hard compound tires on the front of his car and two softs on the rear. But the roads were dry and Ogier’s option of three hard and one soft tire proved more matched to the conditions.
“It wasn’t a perfect choice, but better than Jari-Matti, I guess,” Ogier said. “The best would have been four hard tires. We had a clean stage and avoided the small mistakes we made earlier.”
Latvala said believing the weather forecast cost him.
“According to our information there was an expectation of rain showers,” Latvala said “But they never came and the road was 100 percent dry, so the rears overheated.”
The 20-stage Australian race, 10th of 14 events on the World Rally Championship, ends Sunday with racing through more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) of rainforest.
It is being held on mostly gravel roads in northern New South Wales state about 525 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.
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