2019 Wales Rally GB: Tänak Takes Lead on Final Friday Stage

by Steven Batey

Ott Tänak leads title rival Sebastien Ogier by 3.4 seconds at the top of the Wales Rally GB standings after taking the lead from Kris Meeke at the end of day two.

Meeke had been leading throughout Friday, despite only winning the Oulton Park Super Special last night, until the final stage of the day where both championship leader Tänak and Ogier leapfrogged him.

Ogier moved upto second on the final stage of the day. Photo Credit: Jannus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Just 8.4 seconds separate the top four with Thierry Neuville also still well within the running after the first 10 stages of the rally. The Belgian admitted to struggling on the dark second run through Aberhirnant but is only 4.8 seconds behind Meeke.

Two of the day’s stages were partially cancelled, with the first Aberhirnant test being stopped due to spectators being in a dangerous position and then stage seven was also cut short after Jari-Matti Latvala rolled his Yaris WRC down a bank and out of the rally.

The Finn is out of the remainder of the event after the roll cage of his car was deemed unrepairable by Toyota but Esapekka Lappi, who went off the road early on the previous stage, will restart tomorrow after the Citroen C3 was repaired by the French team.

Breen was annoyed with the cancellation of stage five. Photo Credit: Jannus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

Behind the leading quartet is Andreas Mikkelsen who leads Hyundai teammate Craig Breen by 7.8 seconds. Breen admitted to being frustrated with the fans who forced stage five to be cancelled, with the Irishman believing he was driving quicker than the nominal time he was given suggested.

Elfyn Evans won two stages on Friday, including the opening stage of the day, but the Welshman broke his suspension on the same bank which later ended Lavala’s rally and dropped over 45 seconds as a result.

A recovery drive throughout the afternoon sees him recovering the M-Sport Ford Fiesta to eighth on the leaderboard on his home event, 14.4 seconds behind teammate Teemu Suninen. Pontus Tidemand completes the WRC runners in ninth overall.

Evans won two stages on Friday. Photo Credit: Jannus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

WRC2 PRO sees a close battle between Skoda pair Jan Kopecký and Kalle Rovanperä with the Czech driver managing to take the lead of the class ahead of his young teammate on stage nine.

Gus Greensmith, who won two stages on Friday is third in class, although nearly four minutes down on Kopecký after a mechanical issue forced him to check in late to the beginning of stage nine. Hayden Paddon will restart tomorrow under Super Rally rules after crashing on stage four but Mads Østberg retired from the rest of the Welsh rally after a routine service at the midday interval went wrong.

WRC2 saw a disappointing start to the day as Oliver Solberg, who had been competing on his first ever World Championship event and alongside his dad Petter, was forced to retire from the rest of the day after he lost a rim off a wheel which dragged him into a ditch just 4km into the first stage of the morning. He will however restart tomorrow.

Oliver Solberg retired on the first stage of Friday. Photo Credit: Jannus Ree/RedBull Content Pool

At the top of the class standings, Pierre-Louis Loubet has a 35.7 seconds lead over the sole remaining Solberg with Adrien Fourmaux just 3.4 seconds behind in third. Marco Bulacia Wilkinson and Alberto Heller complete the top five in class.

The battle in the FIA Junior World Rally Championship is now a two-horse race after Dennis Rådström went off the road on stage three. This leaves class leader Jan Solans to battle with Tom Kristensson to become JWRC champion throughout the remainder of the weekend. American driver Sean Johnston completes the top three.

Tomorrow, ‘Super Saturday’ takes place in the Welsh forests, with a total of seven stages taking place throughout the day.

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