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Ford driver Jari-Matti Latvala leads Repco Rally Australia after the completion of day one, following 11 special stages and 84.13km of competition.

But it’s far from a comfortable lead, with just 2.2 seconds to defend on tomorrow’s slippery stages.

Today’s short afternoon stages consisted of three repeats of the morning stages, before returning to Murwillumbah for the night’s final two tarmac Tweed Super Special stages.

Latvala won all three forest stages this afternoon to bring his day’s total to six stage wins, with tenths of a second separating him from the chasing pack.

Latvala continued his stage-winning form following the midday service, winning stages 10, 12 and 13.

“Just driving clean as I did in the morning,” said Latvala. “There is no point in playing tactics as the stage is too short; the time you win with tactics, you lose on the stage because it is so short.

"I'm quite satisfied with today," he said. "I've enjoyed my driving and it's important I keep the rhythm. I'm first on the road tomorrow, and that's going to going to help Mikko."

The Ford driver now goes into day two of Repco Rally Australia with a 2.2 second lead over Citroen Junior driver Sebastien Ogier whose stages times were never more than 0.6 seconds behind the rally leader.

“Yeah, it was a very good day,” said Ogier. “It was a little difficult.”

We picked a tyre to be good for the Super Special. It was okay, we didn’t lose too much time on this stage, but hopefully we can make it up on the Super Special tonight.”

He did: Ogier was fastest on the night’s first and second passes by 0.6 seconds, pulling 1.2 seconds back on Latvala and making it four from four stage wins over the Murwillumbah tarmac town tests

The tight fight for third continues between Sebastien Loeb, Dani Sordo and Mikko Hirvonen, the trio separated by just 0.9 seconds.

Citroen’s Dani Sordo was one of the few drivers in a position to play tactics, deliberately slowing before the finish line of SS13 to drop behind Hirvonen - promoting the Finn to third place.

"I lost time at the end to go after Mikko on the roads tomorrow," he explained. "Saturday is a long day and there will be a lot of gravel on the stages, we will see tomorrow if it was the right choice."

But Hirvonen’s slower times on the Super Specials shuffled him back from third to fifth and putting him in good stead for tomorrow’s action.

Loeb suffered mysterious engine power problems on SS6 but had it quickly solved.

"It was because the throttle pedal wasn't going flat to the floor," he explained. “But that's fixed now so everything is good. I am doing my best; I will go as fast as I can for the Super Special tonight. I was slower than Mikko this afternoon, there is always tomorrow, I have been having a dreadful day, I also was using old tires for the Super Special. It has been a tough day, I will need to hold position tomorrow, and hopefully it will be different.”

Loeb’s tyre tactics helped; on a day where tenths of a second were valuable, Loeb pulled back four seconds on leader Latvala over the two Super Specials, to move into third place just 0.1 seconds ahead of Sordo and 20.5 seconds behind Ogier.

Henning Solberg finished the day in sixth, after struggling to find a comfortable set-up with his Ford Focus.

"I'm happier now I've made some damper adjustments - the car feels good," he said. "We're definitely on the right track with the car now, so we'll push hard tomorrow."

BP Ford Abu Dhabi Team driver Khalid Al Qassimi is the first WRC retirement from the rally after hitting a rock on SS7 and breaking his car's steering. He is expected to return to day two under Super Rally rules.

P-WRC early leader Martin Prokop also hit a rock on SS8 and damaged the car’s intercooler, losing time and dropping to fifth.

Richard Mason subsequently moved into the lead of P-WRC – and 10th outright following Al Qassimi’s problems - on SS13 ahead of Hayden Paddon and holds a slim lead, while Martin Prokop moved into third place after the Super Specials by just 0.1 seconds over Bernardo Sousa in fourth.

Another 0.1 back in fifth is Cody Crocker, the leading Australian driver, who is also 14th outright.

Day 2 of Repco Rally Australia consists of 10 competitive stages totalling 113km, finishing with two more Tweed Super Specials in the heart of Murwillumbah.

REPCO RALLY AUSTRALIA RESULTS After SS15

Pos Driver/car                                     Time
1. Jari-Matti Latvala, Ford                  +53m:21.4s
2. Sebastien Ogier, Citroen                 +2.2s
3. Sebastien Loeb, Citroen                  +22.7s
4. Dani Sordo, Citroen                        +22.8s
5. Mikko Hirvonen, Ford                    +23.6s
6. Henning Solberg, Ford                   +51.3s
7. Matthew Wilson, Ford                    +1m:42.4s
8. Federico Villagra, Ford                   +2m:04.6s
9. Conrad Rautenbach, Citroen          +2m:27.5s
10. Richard Mason, Subaru                +4m:16.3s

P-WRC
1. Richard Mason, Subaru                  +57m:37.7s
2. Hayden Paddon, Mitsubishi           +2.7s
3. Bernardo Sousa, Fiat                      +14.9s
(5. Cody Crocker (AUS), Subaru       +15.1s)

STAGE WINS
Latvala            6
Ogier               5
Sordo              1
Hirvonen         1
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