Elfyn Evans has well and truly begun his recovery drive after a puncture on SS1, as he won the third stage of Croatia Rally.
The Toyota driver sat outside of the top 10 after stage one, having suffered a puncture to his front-left wheel, but he was fully back in the rhythm on the Krašić – Vrškovac test, ending up 2.6 seconds faster than his team-mate Kalle Rovanperä.
That stage victory now moves Evans up to eighth overall, while Rovanperä has extended his rally lead by the smallest of margins, having been 0.2s faster than Hyundia’s Thierry Neuville.
Neuville had a half-spin after just a few corners, but he managed to catch his Hyundai i20 N Rally1, avoiding any major time loss, and despite the moment he was still eight tenths faster than Rovanperä at the opening split.
But from there, Rovanperä managed to regain some time, and completed the 6.9-mile test in 6m10.6s, two tenths faster than what Neuville could manage.
There was plenty of drama further down the order too, as Adrien Fourmaux crashed out of the rally on just the second corner of the stage.
The M-Sport driver hit a puddle on the second corner – the same spot where Neuville had his half-spin – causing him to aquaplane, and he went off the road, ending up in someone’s garden.
Considerable damage was caused to his Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid, meaning he will not continue.
Ott Tänak retains third position overall for Hyundai, and he now has an 8s advantage over Craig Breen in fourth, while Gus Greensmith remains fifth, although he is now over a minute behind Rovanperä.
Oliver Solberg will be reasonably happy with his morning. Before the rally started, the Hyundai driver said his target was to make it to the end and gain experience.
He moved up to sixth overall after Fourmaux’s retirement promoted him a position.
WRC2 driver Yohan Rossel is now running in ninth, with a 19s advantage to class rival Chris Ingram in 10th.
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 6m08.0s
2 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +2.6s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2.8s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.0s
5 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +6.5s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +7.7s
7 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +17.5s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +19.2s
9 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +20.3s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +23.2s
Leading positions after SS3
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 32m09.4s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +11.8s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +35.9s
4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +43.9s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +1m14.8s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +1m21.5s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +1m40.9s
8 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +1m45.1s
9 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +2m21.2s
10 Chris Ingram/Craig Drew (Škoda) +2m40.2s