Latvala retires from WRC Rally Italy battle
Jari-Matti Latvala has lost third place on Rally Italy, after a technical problem forced him to retire his Toyota despite the World Rally Championship's Saturday stages having already been completed.
Latvala - last year's runner-up on this event - had been engaged in a tight scrap for a podium place with his team-mate Esapekka Lappi.
Despite losing time in the afternoon stages to Lappi, Latvala recouped it on the last stage before service and headed his compatriot by 5.3s, albeit 45 seconds behind Thierry Neuville in second and 48.9s behind leader Sebastien Ogier.
However, a hurried arrival at the last stage time control and constant engine revving indicated something was amiss aboard Latvala's Yaris WRC at the end of the loop.
He pulled away at speed, but later parked up on a road section between stage 16 and service in Alghero. He and co-driver Miikka Anttila could not resolve the issue.
The root cause for his stoppage remains unclear, though impact damage is a likely cause for his technical woes.
"I don't know exactly what the problem is," Toyota team principal Tommi Makinen told Autosport.
"There's talk about the alternator but we think this could be rock damage.
"There were so many rocks in there."
Toyota sporting director Kaj Lindstrom added: "I know the voltage started to drop.
"My guess is that they hit a rock.
"There were lots of rocks on the road, and I think he picked up some damage.
"There were no warnings, there was a real shock when the voltage dropped at the end of the stage."
It is unlikely the Finn's alternator failed as the belt remained on.
Potential punctures had been on Latvala's mind heading into Rally Italy, even resorting to moving stones out of the way by hand during this week's recce.
He had been vigilant of stones and rocks throughout, stating after multiple stage finishes he had taken a cautious approach to avoid potential punctures and damage.
"There is some more margin [to fight Lappi], but after three zeroes, I don't want to take that risk," added Latvala at midday service, referring to his retirements at the last three WRC rounds in France, Argentina and Portugal.
His other team-mate and last year's winner of Rally Italy, Ott Tanak, had retired on Friday after a nose-heavy landing over a fast jump.
Lappi appeared upset at losing Latvala from the fight for the podium on the event, despite being promoted on to the podium.
"It's the same like Finland last year when the electrics fucked up," said Lappi, who won Rally Finland in 2017 while Latvala retired from the lead battle.
"It's a big shame, it's not nice to get the position like this.
"It's nice to get the position, but I want to fight, especially after a fight like this.
"It feels like I don't deserve it. It's a big shame."