Jari-Matti Latvala continues to lead Mikko Hirvonen in Rally Australia, though an exchange of positions is anticipated somewhere along the final three stages.
Ever since his cars moved into first and second on Friday, Ford team boss Malcolm Wilson has admitted that Hirvonen is likely to be given victory as he still has a title shot whereas Latvala is all but out of championship contention.
Hirvonen trimmed a little from Latvala's advantage by winning Sunday's opening Bucca stage, before Latvala restored his lead to 19.7 seconds by being fastest on the 30-kilometer Plum Pudding test. They then set equal times on Clarence, the last stage before the mid-leg service.
Petter Solberg had hoped to charge up behind the Fords today but has only been able to gain a few seconds on them, and is still 57.6sec adrift in third.
Aside from the timing of the Fords' swap, the main interest now comes from how many points the works Citroen drivers can salvage after their Friday accidents. Sebastien Ogier is back up to 10th, helped by Evgeny Novikov having a massive crash on Plum Pudding. The Stobart Ford driver – who had recovered to ninth under superally after damaging his car on leg one – was unhurt. Ogier still has a great chance of taking eighth with two Production class cars immediately ahead as well.
Sebastien Loeb still looks highly unlikely to make it back into the top 10, but both he and Ogier have an eye on the bonus points available for the top three times on the rally-closing power stage. Loeb and Ogier were first and second when the same Clarence stage was run as SS23 this morning.
Leading positions after SS23:
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford 3h10m01.2s
2. Mikko Hirvonen Ford + 19.7s
3. Petter Solberg Solberg Citroen + 57.6s
4. Matthew Wilson Stobart Ford + 7m24.0s
5. Khalid Al Qassimi Abu Dhabi Ford + 11m05.8s
6. Hayden Paddon Symtech Subaru + 15m35.8s
7. Michal Kosciuszko Lotos Mitsubishi + 16m27.1s
8. Oleksandr Saliuk Mentos Mitsubishi + 18m40.6s
9. Benito Guerra GMA Mitsubishi + 19m47.6s
10. Sebastien Ogier Citroen + 19m58.1s