Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia have a mathematical chance of winning their third respective championships this weekend, but the odds are better to get their rewards in Australia.
He won the first two stages but Latvala claimed the third and ended the morning 0.1 sec. ahead. He was the fastest man outside Ogier and Latvala on three of the afternoon’s four stages.
“We had the right set-up and tyre management, but it’s never easy without split times because you never know where you are with the rhythm”. It’s a long time since I pushed so hard on asphalt.
Latvala was frustrated by the conditions.
Paddon lies less than 25sec behind the four cars immediately in front of him, including Hyundai team-mates Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville, who are fourth and fifth respectively.
Mikkelsen was chased by Kris Meeke initially but when the Ulsterman went off the road on Friday, the Norwegian measured his pace to the finish.
Latvala was deflated at being unable to match his team-mate over the daunting tank training tracks on Saturday, but second provided some consolation after crashing out of the lead on the final day 12 months ago.
Quickest on six of the day’s nine stages, Sebastien Ogier built his lead to a commanding 33.8 seconds at the end of Saturday. Elfyn Evans prevented Volkswagen achieving a clean sweep of stage wins on Sunday en route to sixth in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Robert Kubica started with a five-minute penalty after an engine change following Thursday’s shakedown.