A mistake by Jari-Matti Latvala on the first stage of the second day left Sebastien Ogier out in the lead of Wales Rally GB on his own.
With the pressure off him Ogier was able to ease back for the rest of his day, allowing what had become the battle for second place to take the headlines. Mikko Hirvonen initially picked up second place after Latvala’s trip into the ditch a kilometre from the end of the Clocaenog East stage but would lose the position before the crews returned to the service park after the morning loop of five stages.
Having started the day in fifth – which became fourth with Latvala’s off – Mads Ostberg had taken third from his Citroen teammate Kris Meeke after a hairy moment on the Aberhirnant stage cost him five seconds. Mads Ostberg then took second place on the 2.06km Chirk Castle RallyFest Stage, the shortest of the rally. The Norwegian, however, would be knocked out the spot before the start of the next competitive stage, a ten second penalty for a late arrival at one of the morning’s stages.
With the fastest time on the return to Clocaenog East Kris Meeke claimed second place only for Hirvonen to reply with his own fastest time on the following stage to retake the position. 58 seconds behind a comfortable Ogier Hirvonen holds the place by 3.4 seconds overnight, with six stages of the rally – and Hirvonen’s WRC career – left on the itinerary.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Latvala closed out their own eventful days with the last two stage wins on offer.
The Volkswagen duo had had wildly contrasting mornings. Latvala’s began disastrously as he stalled under braking for a corner before sliding backwards into a ditch, knocking the rear spoiler off his car. Not only did he lose three minutes before he regained the road, but the damage to the car destroyed the balance under braking, leaving him to wrestle the machine as he lost more and more time on the following four stages, a broken front damper joining the roll call of work for the VW team back in the Deeside service park.
Mikkelsen’s own crash, early on day one, had forced him to take advantage of the Rally2 regulations to continue and left him opening up the morning roads. Just as on Friday this proved to a sizeable advantage and he quickly matched his teammate’s stage win hauls for the event, winning the first four stages of the day before being beaten by Henning Solberg around the grounds of Chirk Castle.
The afternoon brought ore drama for Mikkelsen, finding himself without any intercom between himself and co-driver Ola Floene, leaving him relying on hand signals and memory to negotiate the Clocaenog East stage. Even with that problem he still recorded the second best time before a repair restored some cross-cockpit verbal communications before the darkness descended upon the Aberhirnant and Dyfnant stages that ended the day.
Having lost time to his penalty a delaminated tyre on the penultimate stage pushed Ostberg back into the clutches of Thierry Neuville who crashed into a hay bale chicane on the same stage damaging the light pod on the front of his i20.
Elfyn Evans is a further eight seconds behind with Ott Tanak, Jari-Matti Latvala, Henning Solberg and Martin Prokop occupying the rest of the top ten.