Rally GB WRC: Tanak stays in lead, Neuville rises to second
Toyota's Ott Tanak continues to lead Rally GB on Saturday afternoon, as Thierry Neuville scored two stage wins to take second place from World Rally Championship title rival Sebastien Ogier.
Tanak suffered a scare early on Sweet Lamb when a compression ripped the rear bumper off his Toyota Yaris WRC, which meant he “couldn’t hear anything” co-driver Martin Jarveoja was saying.
However, Tanak appeared relatively unaffected on the following test and conceded only 0.4s to Neuville, though at one point had been 1.5s ahead of Hyundai’s lead driver.
Neuville is now in second place behind Tanak, winning the reruns of both Myherin and Dyfi. But Tanak’s performance on Sweet Lamb, in which only Neuville’s teammate Andreas Mikkelsen was faster than the championship leader, ensured the lead gap crept up to 10.1s.
Ogier was unable to keep pace with his fellow title rivals on the polished afternoon stages, with less grip on offer from the forest roads as rain began to fall once more.
Dyfi was especially costly for Ogier, dropping 3.9s to Neuville and leaving him 6.2s astray heading to the final stage of the day in Colwyn Bay.
Early rally leader Kris Meeke continued to fall away slightly from the podium battle in fourth place, closely matching Ogier’s pace for most of the afternoon loop though ultimately dropping to eight seconds behind the five-time Rally GB winner.
Mikkelsen’s stage win on Sweet Lamb helped him fend off the advances of M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans, who had won all three stages of the Saturday morning loop.
Spooked by an impact on the same Sweet Lamb test that Mikkelsen had gone fastest, Evans backed off slightly for fear of a puncture and lost four seconds.
But Evans’s strong pace on the other two stages ensured he still cut his deficit to Mikkelsen, whittling the gap to fifth place down to 2.8s.
Teemu Suninen’s Ford Fiesta WRC looked worse for wear from a rear-left puncture at the end of the morning loop which had ripped off the surrounding aerodynamic bodywork, but he continued steadily in a lonely seventh place with nothing to fight for.
Likewise, Pontus Tidemand has big gaps ahead and behind in eighth place with the third M-Sport Fiesta, now four minutes ahead of Craig Breen’s ailing Hyundai.
An earlier barrel-roll on the morning pass of Myherin had caused extensive bodywork damage to Breen’s i20 WRC and though mechanically the car was intact, he couldn’t see properly, unable to clear mud that was accumulating on his car’s windscreen.
Combined with a one minute penalty for a road order reshuffle, where he started Sweet Lamb immediately behind Neuville in what appeared to be a tactical gambit to give the Hyundai team leader a small road order advantage, Breen has surprisingly ended up battling Skoda’s Kalle Rovanpera for position.
Rally GB WRC: Tanak extends lead as Evans dominates
Rally GB WRC: Tanak extends points lead with win