Craig Breen is disappearing out of the fight to win Rally Finland, dropping a damaging 4.2 seconds to stage winner Ott Tänak on SS13 to now trail rally leader Elfyn Evans by 12.1s.
Breen led the event after the first day, heading a round of the World Rally Championship overnight for the first time in his career.
The Hyundai driver lost the lead to Toyota’s Evans early on Saturday morning and was then dumped out of second by team-mate Tänak on the previous test.
However his times had remained in the correct ballpark throughout until SS13 where Breen could only manage the sixth-quickest time.
“I really didn’t have a good rhythm in there to be honest, I just didn’t push enough,” he said.
“There was so much more grip than the first pass and maybe it’s a bit of inexperience, I didn’t push for it.”
Tänak meanwhile won his third stage in a row, threatening to do what Evans did in the morning by grabbing a clean sweep of stage wins across the loop.
He was only 0.2s quicker than Evans though, so has a 7.7s deficit to the leader.
“It wasn’t the best, best run,” said Evans. “Went a little bit wide on a corner, grabbed some understeer which cost us a little time, but OK.”
Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier have been incredibly closely matched on Saturday afternoon and that continued on SS13; Neuville reclaiming the 0.8s he lost to Ogier on the previous test.
The pair remain 13.1s apart in fifth and sixth.
“We had a good stage, we had a good rhythm,” Neuville said, confirming that the niggles he and Martijn Wydaeghe had on the first pass with their flow were erased. “I can’t do much more.”
Esapekka Lappi’s pace has been in the same bracket, and he was a slender 0.6s faster than Neuville to keep his overall buffer at a healthy 22.6s in fourth place on his World Rally Car return.
“It feels very nice to see all the spectators, there’s been a lot of them,” said the Toyota privateer. “They are supporting, I’m sure everyone but us well, so thanks for that to everyone.”
Gus Greensmith beat his M-Sport team-mate Adrien Fourmaux for the 12th stage in a row on Arvaja, heading him by 1m13.7s in seventh overall.
Teemu Suninen is ninth overall and leading WRC2 but lost 2.1s to Mads Østberg, completing the stage without a front bumper on his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Suninen had a warning alarm on the previous stage and that persisted on SS13, and he confirmed the missing bumper was due to “a rush” on the road section to make the start of the stage on time.
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 6m49.5s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +0.2s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +1.6s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2.2s
5 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +3.0s
6 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +4.2s
Leading positions after SS13
1 Evans/Martin (Toyota) 1h45m49.1s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +7.7s
2 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +12.1s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +39.8s
5 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1m02.4s
6 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +1m15.5s
7 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +3m46.1s
8 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +4m59.8s
9 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen) +7m23.1s
10 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +7m31.2s