Jari-Matti Latvala holds a narrow 4.7 second lead over Sébastien Ogier at the end of day three of 2018 Rally de España as the top six drivers are separated by just 16.5 seconds.
It looked as if day two runaway leader and Toyota teammate Ott Tänak was going to continue out in front as Saturday’s action got underway, but the Estonian suffered a puncture on the second stage of the morning loop and lost over a minute and a half with the problem.
This enabled several of his rivals including championship challengers Ogier and Thierry Neuville to benefit with the pair second and fifth respectively after Saturday’s reduced total of six stages following the cancellation of the first stage of the day on safety grounds.
Both drivers were making the most of not being used as road sweepers at the front of the running order and progressed up the field throughout Saturday. Neuville won two stages as he moved up from ninth this morning while Ogier jumped from seventh to second by Saturday evening.
Second going into day three, Dani Sordo, had initially taken over the lead following Tänak’s demise but the Spaniard was soon passed by Latvala as the day continued, with the Finn’s wet tyre choice proving dividends on the damp asphalt stages that were often mixed with gravel.
Sordo finds himself down in sixth at the end of Saturday after struggling with the changing conditions late on Saturday and particularly on the penultimate stage where he dropped over 20 seconds on stage winner Neuville.
Third and just 8 seconds adrift of the lead is stage 12 winner Sébastien Loeb while Elfyn Evans had another trouble-free day and sits fourth going into Sunday, only a further 1.8 seconds behind with championship leader Neuville 2.9 seconds further down the order.
Esapekka Lappi is seventh after a rather up and down day in the second highest placed Toyota. The Finn posted a series of strong stage times, but a big spin on stage 13 meant he lost time and dropped him back down the overall leaderboard.
He has a 14.2 second advantage over the recovering Tanak in eighth. Craig Breen, who himself survived a spin on the first stage of the day and Andreas Mikkelsen round out the top 10 overall with Teemu Suninen 11th in the third M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC.
Rovanperä Takes Over In WRC2
Eric Camilli soon lost his overnight lead to the charging Kalle Rovanperä as day three got underway in WRC2, with the young Finn on a mission to make it two successive wins in the class.
Things were to go from bad to worse for Camilli in the Volkswagen Polo R5 as the new car suffered gearbox troubles two stages later and eventually forced him to retire on the road section shortly after.
This let the new WRC2 champion Jan Kopecký move into second, but the Czech driver couldn’t get the better of his young teammate across the remaining four stages with Rovanperä holding a 22 second lead at the end of day three.
Nil Solans is a man to watch tomorrow as the young Spaniard sits just 0.3 seconds behind Kopecký after a storming afternoon saw him win two stages in the Ford Fiesta R5.
Petter Solberg is in fourth at the end of day three in the second Polo, over a minute behind Solans in third while triple FIA European Rally champion Kajetan Kajetanowicz completes the top five, just 4.9 seconds behind 2003 WRC champion Solberg. Enrico Brazzoli continues to lead WRC3 as both Taisko Lario and Louise Cook suffered problems earlier in the rally.
The final day of 2018 Rally de España takes place tomorrow with four more stages totalling 61.7km.