Sébastien Ogier took the lead of Acropolis Rally Greece from Thierry Neuville on the opening stage of Saturday.
Pavliani, a lengthy 15-mile stage which started dry but had muddy and troughed sections seven miles in, was delayed by 32 minutes due to a “safety issue” and when the day’s action finally begun it was M-Sport’s Jordan Serderidis who opened the road.
His team-mate Ott Tänak went 1m49.8s faster, and that was the sort of pace the rest of the Rally1 runners were at. The road conditions improved on the dry parts, giving the advantage to those coming in later, and Toyota’s Kalle Rovanperä took the stage win by 1.3 seconds over team-mate Ogier.
More importantly Ogier took 10.6s out of Neuville, meaning he overcame the Hyundai driver’s overnight 2.8s lead to move ahead by 7.8s.
Neuville was adamant “I had a good stage” and that “from the driving it was quite close on the edge”.
Rovanperä’s performance reduced his gap to the front, but he is still over 20s behind, and team-mate Elfyn Evans is now comfortable in fourth but far away from rostrum contention.
Hyundai’s Dani Sordo moved back into sixth place overall as Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta had a spin and he lost half a minute trying to get his car turned back around in a narrow section.
There was more drama in the Rally2 category, as overnight leader Nikolay Gryazin stopped on the stage. But he wasn’t registered for WRC2 so Yohan Rossel still heads that category by seven seconds over Marco Bulacia who overhauled Gus Greensmith.
Also profiting from Gryazin’s issue was Tänak, who moves up a spot to eighth overall. He is 3m47.6s off Ogier after being penalized 3m40s yesterday for being late to time control.