Toyota’s Ott Tänak has reduced Sébastien Ogier’s advantage of one minute 3.4 seconds down to 39.5 seconds after the re-run of this morning’s loop of stages. The Estonian was fastest by 15 seconds in the first stage and with another handful of seconds to his credit in the second has chipped into the Frenchman’s lead with one stage remaining today. Jari-Matti Latvala maintains third with a comfortable lead over Kris Meeke.
Conditions during the second loop were better this afternoon with clear but wet lines in the slush. Ogier admitted not taking risks, his only plan now being to stay ahead of Tänak with five stages remaining in the event. The Estonian, like many of his rivals, overshot into a field in the first stage but was still fastest, but he too says he is not pushing to the limit in the tricky conditions. Latvala has however pushed on and his advantage over an elevated Meeke is now over three minutes.
The Northern Irish driver overhauled Esapekka Lappi in the first stage, despite a spin into the same field, but his Finnish rival had to stop and change a puncture which left Meeke with a 19.7 second advantage in fourth position. However in the following one he lost some of that lead with an overshoot into a snow bank and the pair are now battling with just 6.2 seconds separating them. Elfyn Evans overhauled team-mate Bryan Bouffier for sixth when the Frenchman ended up in the same field as many others, but Evans then struggled in the last stage with an intermittent intercom problem which resulted in him missing 40% of his pace notes. The pair go into the final stage of the day split by 23.3 seconds. Thierry Neuville continues to chase but he lost time with a couple of moments in the first stage; he spun into a bank and then aquaplaned into the field. He is however just 12.2 seconds adrift of Bouffier after setting fastest time in the second stage. Craig Breen is some distance behind but enjoying today’s stages.
Jan Kopecky continues to be the runaway leader in the FIA WRC 2 Championship category but Enrico Brazzoli has taken the advantage in WRC 3, Jean-Baptiste Franceschi retiring for unconfirmed reasons.