Elfyn Evans has shifted into lead management mode at Wales Rally GB, conceding 6.7 seconds to the new leader of the chasing pack Thierry Neuville through the first pass of Brenig, his overall lead cut to 43.4 seconds.
With Evans still holding a comfortable gap out front, attentions turned to the almighty scrap for second position between five drivers. Neuville took the initiative in Sunday’s opening stage, Alwen, going 3.7 seconds faster than Sébastien Ogier to take second place away from the reigning champion.
That position change can potentially keep Neuville’s title hopes alive, so long as he wins the powerstage and Ogier is not one of the five quickest cars through the Brenig re-run that closes the rally.
The lead Hyundai driver has a potential late saviour in Jari-Matti Latvala, who went joint fastest with Neuville through the Gwydir stage, closing the gap to Ogier ahead to only 2.3 seconds in fourth.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Ott Tänak are engaged in a blow-for-blow battle over fifth place. Mikkelsen took 2.4 seconds out of Tänak in the opening Alwen test, and while he extended the gap by a further 1.4 seconds in Brenig, the Estonian recouped 1.3 seconds in Gwydir.
Kris Meeke remains the lead Citroën in seventh, and while on paper not a fantastic result, he was happy nonetheless with his performance in relation to the pace of his C3 WRC on rough gravel, a known weakness for the French team this year.
Meeke was the most vocal driver over hay bales that lined the Brenig stage, questioning the organisers’ decision to place them there only after the recce had been completed earlier this week.
Ogier had clattered one of these bales when kicking the rear of his Fiesta out on a fast right, spreading hay all over the road and irritating those drivers which followed.
A much happier Hayden Paddon has taken a cautious approach to bring the car home, several seconds off the pace in all three stages during the penultimate loop of the rally in eighth.
Esapekka Lappi was still frustrated over his lack of pace in ninth, still at a loss to explain his struggles to keep in touch with the front-runners. A minute off Lappi remains Dani Sordo for the final point in tenth.
Mads Østberg returned under Rally2 this morning after electrical issues opening and closing the centre differential throughout the Saturday morning loop. Despite his Adapta team’s best efforts, the issue emerged once again in Alwen, Østberg still at a loss to understand why the issue was occurring.
|M-Sport World Rally Team||M||2:47:18.0|
|M-Sport World Rally Team||M||+48.2|
|Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||M||+50.5|
|M-Sport World Rally Team||M||+57.0|
|Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT||M||+1:24.0|
|Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT||M||+2:41.4|