The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship continues to deliver dramatic action, with twists and turns repeatedly flipping the leaderboard and turning the championship fight on its head. Ott Tanak, the dominant leader of Wales Rally GB, is the latest victim as the Estonian — who was chasing a fourth consecutive win — was forced into retirement this afternoon, handing the lead to championship rival Sebastien Ogier. The reigning WRC champion still has a fight on his hands, however, heading a quartet of crews chasing the event win — Jari-Matti Latvala, Esapekka Lappi and Craig Breen all within 13.5 seconds of the Frenchman.
Tanak went into the repeated stages this afternoon with an impressive 48-second advantage over Ogier. The Frenchman won the stage clawing back 6.1 seconds on the Estonian, but on the following stage disaster struck for Tanak when he was forced to park his Yaris WRC with a damaged radiator and loss of water pressure — a devastating blow in both the event and championship battle.
Ogier assumed the lead but with a pack chasing, the Fiesta driver had to keep the pressure up as Toyota desperately need second-placed Latvala to challenge for the win to help minimize Tanak’s points loss to the M-Sport driver. The Finn is all too aware of the position he and teammate Lappi are in and he halved the gap to Ogier in the third stage with a stage win to come to within 2.9 seconds of the lead, before dropping a couple of seconds in the final stage when he stalled in a hairpin. Even so, the pair are only split by 4.4 seconds going into the final day on Sunday, with Latvala’s teammate Lappi a further 7.4 seconds adrift.
The younger Finn admitted to having little hope of matching Ogier’s pace, but maintaining at least third position will not only keep Tanak’s Hyundai rival Thierry Neuville — who has had a troubled rally himself — further behind, but also help Toyota in its bid for the Manufacturers’ Championship title. Breen, however, is only another 1.7 seconds behind, setting up a four-way fight over tomorrow’s five stages where Power Stage points will also play a big part in the title fight.
Mads Ostberg is fifth, 34.1 seconds off the lead but with Andreas Mikkelsen hot on his heels in sixth. The Norwegian has had a great afternoon with two stage wins and he heads Hyundai teammates Hayden Paddon and Neuville. While team orders are sure to come into play tomorrow, ensuring Neuville takes as many points as possible, the Belgian will also be chasing maximum Power Stage points.
Kalle Rovanpera continues to be the runaway leader in the FIA WRC 2 Championship and the Finn has over a minute on Pontus Tidemand, who needs to win this event to keep his category title hopes alive. Rovanpera won two of the afternoon’s four stages with Tidemand and Eric Camilli claiming the others.
In the two-wheel drive FIA WRC 3 Championship, Tom Williams takes nearly four minutes advantage into the closing day, Enrico Brazzoli and Taisko Lario trailing in second and third positions respectively.
Wales Rally GB – Unofficial results after Section 5
|1||Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||2hr 31min 22.5sec|
|2||Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||2hr 31min 26.9sec|
|3||Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm||Toyota Yaris WRC||2hr 31min 34.3sec|
|4||Craig Breen / Scott Martin||Citroen C3 WRC||2hr 31min 36.0sec|
|5||Mads Ostberg / Torstein Eriksen||Citroen C3 WRC||2hr 31min 56.6sec|
|6||Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jæger||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2hr 31min 59.0sec|
|7||Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2hr 32min 07.9sec|
|8||Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||2hr 32min 18.0sec|
|9||Kalle Rovanpera / Jonne Halttunen||Skoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2)||2hr 38min 53.3sec|
|10||Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson||Skoda Fabia R5 (WRC 2)||2hr 39min 56.4sec|