Ott Tänak increased his lead at the top of Wales Rally GB to 11 seconds as Thierry Neuville moved up to second ahead of Sebastien Ogier.
Day three in Wales saw the championship leader continue to be out in front across the seven stages, three of which were won by Elfyn Evans this morning, and the Estonian gradually increased his lead as his rivals battled.
Neuville started the day fourth behind Kris Meeke who he moved ahead of on stage 12 before gradually catching Ogier on the next three afternoon tests to keep the Belgian in the hunt for the World Drivers’ title.
The gap between Meeke and a podium on his home event is just 9.2 seconds, although with the retirement of Jari-Matti Latvala after his crash yesterday, he knows that he now has an essential role to play in Toyota’s pursuit of manufacturer points.
Stage 12 was to prove a problem for Craig Breen, running sixth at the time, after the Irishman rolled his Hyundai in spectacular fashion after running wide on a sweeping right hander on the first run through Myherin.
Rather incredibly, despite doing four rotations in the air, the car was relatively undamaged, although he did drop five minutes on the stage and several more minutes throughout the rest of the day with his i20 Coupe WRC suffering a broken windscreen and wipers that couldn’t be replaced causing him visibility issues.
As Breen dropped back to ninth by the day ending Colwyn Bay Super Special, a surging Evans had stormed his way back up the leaderboard after his broken suspension yesterday. He overtook M-Sport Ford teammate Teemu Suninen and was in pursuit of Andreas Mikkelsen, although the Norwegian fought back with several faster afternoon times and a stage 15 victory to keep him 4.5 seconds ahead with five stages remaining on Sunday.
Behind Evans is now Pontus Tidemand after Suninen was retired by the Cumbrian team late on Saturday evening after they revealed the damage to his Fiesta WRC was more extreme than first feared. Esapekka Lappi restated under Super Rally Rules on Saturday after his retirement yesterday.
WRC2 PRO saw the battle between Kalle Rovanperä and Jan Kopecký all but end on Saturday as the Czech driver was another man to roll in the Welsh forests. That added with a puncture this morning sees the pair separated by over four minutes going into Sunday and the young Finn now just needs to maintain his lead tomorrow and he’ll claim the class title.
Gus Greensmith damaged his Fiesta R5 after hitting a bank on the opening stage of the day while Mads Ostberg chose not to restart this morning after his bizarre retirement yesterday. The Norwegian was set for a routing service but complications with the C3 R5’s turbo forced him out of Friday afternoon, although he’s hoping to complete the event beginning on Sunday morning.
Petter Solberg traded fastest stage times with Pierre-Louis Loubet throughout Saturday to lead the WRC2 class in his final event over the Frenchman by 12.5 seconds going into tomorrow.
The two drivers are over two minutes ahead of Adrien Fourmaux as championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz again was forced to retire for the second day running in Wales while Oliver Solberg again showed his potential with a pair of stage wins this morning before he was forced to retire on the first run through Sweet Lamb in the Volkswagen Polo R5.
The FIA Junior WRC appears to be all but confirmed to be going the way of Jan Solans after his championship rival Tom Kristensson suffered a puncture on the same stage as Solberg’s retirement that dropped the young Swede over three minutes but is he still second in class going into Sunday.
Tom Williams had been battling with Sean Johnson for third position in class but a roll on the opening stage of the day forced the Brit to retire from the day’s action.
Five more stages are remaining on Wales Rally GB, beginning with Alwen tomorrow morning.