Kalle Rovanperä once again beat Thierry Neuville by a slender margin on SS4 of Croatia Rally to extend his event lead.
The Toyota driver had his messiest stage yet, having a few wild moments early which resulted in him clipping a fence, but he still emerged with the fastest time to beat Neuville by 0.7 seconds.
It means Rovanperä ends the morning with a 12.5s advantage over his Hyundai rival.
“I was quite comfortable in the car this morning in the tricky conditions and for sure, our starting place has been good also,” said Rovanperä.
“We have been quite a bit faster than the guys behind, so maybe the starting place is not the only thing helping us.
“This was the trickiest one. The only one I had a moment, here two slides. Really tricky.”
The weather conditions also played into the early runners’ hands on the Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki test, with rain manifesting after the first three drivers completed their run through the 5.66-mile stage.
It meant that nobody else was able to get close to Rovanperä’s time, with M-Sport’s Craig Breen the nearest challenger, 5.3s off the Toyota driver’s effort.
Breen was the driver that possibly made the biggest gains with the rain, as he closed the gap to third placed Ott Tänak down to just 1.9s.
Hyundai’s Tänak had a difficult stage, ending up fifth fastest, 11.4s slower than the fastest time, but it wasn’t as bad as Elfyn Evans who had yet another puncture.
Evans’ time loss was minimal compared to the loss on the opening stage, but he said the puncture was a “mystery”.
“I felt nothing again,” said the Toyota driver at the end of the test. “Obviously these cuts, you have no choice, it’s so dirty, you have to go on. But I never felt anything.”
That time was enough for Evans to retain eighth overall, but he is now two minutes off the rally lead, meaning his hopes of victory are quickly evaporating.
Gus Greensmith had a tidy run through the stage to remain fifth overall, while Oliver Solberg did enough to retain sixth, 21.2s ahead of Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta.
Yohan Rossel is still the leading WRC2 driver in ninth overall, but he lost 20.3s to Evans on the Pećurkovo Brdo – Mrežnički Novaki test.
He didn’t run into any issues, but said after the run that he was taking precautions to ensure he made it to the end of the stage.
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 5m11.2s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +0.7s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +5.3s
4 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +8.4s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +11.4s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +14.7s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +16.5s
8 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +16.8s
9 Stéphane Lefebvre/Andy Malfoy (Citroën) +25.6s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +30.0s
Leading positions after SS4
1 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) 37m20.6s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +12.5s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +47.3s
4 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +49.2s
5 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +1m23.2s
6 Oliver Solberg/Elliott Edmondson (Hyundai) +1m36.2s
7 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +1m57.4s
8 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2m01.9s
9 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +2m58.3s
10 Chris Ingram/Craig Drew (Škoda) +3m14.9s