Elfyn Evans has re-established a strong lead on Croatia Rally as he bridged the gap up to 25.4 seconds between himself and closest rival Ott Tänak.
Evans had responded to the charging M-Sport driver in the final few stages of Saturday’s running, and once again continued the run of form to end the second day.
Coming into the second pass of Platak the gap was 16.8s, but that has increased significantly on the final test.
Tänak ended the penultimate stage of the day quite frustrated, labeling the run “a disaster” due to a problem with his handbrake with hindered his progress.
And he will be pleased to see the service park on Sunday evening as he yet again couldn’t reel Evans in, with the final day a chance to reset and ignite his push for the win once more.
“I don’t know [what’s wrong],” he said.
“It’s difficult to say. It’s difficult to drive – I don’t know what has happened but I’m happy it’s over.”
Evans also expressed some disappointment at how his day ended despite the gap widening.
“I can’t say I am pleased,” he said.
“I wasn’t so happy with the way I drove in there and if Ott had problems I wouldn’t wish that on him. It’s not nice to exploit a gap like that but there’s still a long way to go.”
Esapekka Lappi is another driver who will be happy to get back to the service park.
He spoke about a lack of feeling with his i20 N Rally1 throughout Saturday and at the stage end he reaffirmed the need for work to be done ahead of the last day.
“I think yesterday was a better day for us,” he said.
“I have never been really good on the dirty Tarmac and today was one of the days where I struggled a lot when there was a lot of pollution on the road.”
It may be of some comfort to Lappi that Ogier is still 54s down the road – a podium finish is very much within reach.
Kalle Rovanperä’s push for fourth didn’t make any further progress as Sébastien Ogier responded to his team-mate to grow the gap by 0.7s, making it 2s overall.
Rovanperä was pleased with his performance on the stage and will be starting behind Ogier on the road order on the final day which could prove crucial.
“The beginning of the stage was really tricky to get the hard tyre working, but otherwise quite good,” he said. “Not easy, but we tried.”
After jumping into fifth on SS15, Takamoto Katsuta continued to extend the gap over Pierre-Louis Loubet as he put a further 3.7s between them.
But with four stages remaining, Katsuta already has his eyes on the powerstage.
“Nice to be here. It was a tricky day – the rhythm was not so bad but the conditions were demanding,” he explained.
“I need to find out what I need to improve and hopefully in tomorrow’s powerstage I can push with a good feeling.”