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Rally Poland WRC: Jari-Matti Latvala leads four-way lead battle

Jari-Matti Latvala Toyota Rally Poland 2017

Jari-Matti Latvala leads Rally Poland for Toyota amid a very close four-way battle in wet conditions.

For once on a gravel rally, drivers early in the running order are faring better - with the top four in the World Rally Championship clear of the rest of the pack as the sodden stages churn up more in their wake.

Thierry Neuville briefly hit the front on the morning's opening Chmielewo stage, but Latvala then won the next two stages and established himself in first place.

Neuville was quickest again on the Stare Juchy stage before service and moved back up to second, 4.5 seconds behind Latvala in the standings.

Latvala managed to maintain that lead despite one of his windscreen wipers snapping on the third stage.

He got to the end of that one with minimal vision then swapped the wipers around on the road section so his side of the screen was clear.

Neuville's SS5 win put him half a second ahead of Ott Tanak for third overall, with Sebastien Ogier now another 2.3s back to complete a lead quartet covered by 7.3s.

Esapekka Lappi impressed again for Toyota by establishing himself in fifth place, off the lead pace but comfortably clear of the rest, until he stopped near the end of SS4. Following drivers reported suspension damage for the Yaris.

Hayden Paddon now occupies that 'best of the rest' place, albeit already 36.3s off Ogier ahead.

But Paddon's conservative approach paid off with Lappi dropping out and Dani Sordo spinning his sister Hyundai from fifth to sixth on Stare Juchy.

Toyota's Juho Hanninen has gradually fallen away from the Hyundai pair in seventh. He is carrying a 10s penalty for a jump start on Thursday night's superspecial.

Overnight leader Elfyn Evans immediately tumbled from first to 13th on the rally's first full-length stage as the DMACK tyres that had worked so well in Poland in the dry last year - when Tanak nearly won using them - proved less competitive in the wet.

He played it safe and made progress back up the order thereafter, and is now up to ninth behind Teemu Suninen, who has been promoted from M-Sport's WRC2 line-up to a World Rally Car for this event.

Citroen is already having a painful rally.

Craig Breen is nearly eight minutes from the front as a driveshaft problem left him in front-wheel-drive only for the whole morning.

Andreas Mikkelsen, in for the benched Kris Meeke, was optimistic about Citroen's set-up in the dry but felt it did not work at all in the wet.

He was only 11th even before running wide and breaking his rear suspension on a tree stump on SS5, costing him almost two minutes.

Stephane Lefebvre has been Citroen's lead runner throughout and was briefly as high as sixth but has now slipped back to 10th.

LEADING POSITIONS AFTER SS5:

PosDriverTeamCarGap
1Jari-Matti Latvala, M.AnttilaToyota Gazoo Racing WRCToyota29m25.8s
2Thierry Neuville, N.GilsoulHyundai MotorsportHyundai4.5s
3Ott Tanak, M.JarveojaM-Sport World Rally TeamFord5.0s
4Sebastien Ogier, J.IngrassiaM-Sport World Rally TeamFord7.3s
5Hayden Paddon, S.MarshallHyundai MotorsportHyundai43.6s
6Dani Sordo, M.MartiHyundai MotorsportHyundai45.7s
7Juho Hanninen, K.LindstromToyota Gazoo Racing WRCToyota1m01.1s
8Teemu Suninen, M.MarkkulaM-Sport World Rally TeamFord1m11.6s
9Elfyn Evans, D.BarrittM-Sport World Rally TeamFord1m17.5s
10Stephane Lefebvre, G.MoreauCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRTCitroen1m18.1s

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