Elfyn Evans has stolen second place of Safari Rally Kenya from Toyota stablemate Takamoto Katsuta while M-Sport suffered another fraught stage on Saturday morning.
Adrien Fourmaux, restarting after a technical problem on Friday, had a nightmare return to action as he dropped over five minutes and also managed to hold up his team-mate Craig Breen.
Fourmaux was setting some decent pace early on but “we hit a rock so we got a puncture”, dropping the first two minutes.
But soon after restarting Fourmaux’s pace dropped significantly again with what transpired to be broken rear-left suspension.
With three-minute gaps between cars, it wasn’t long before Breen’s Puma was latching onto the back of Fourmaux’s in a scene similar to Colin McRae hunting down Tommi Mäkinen in 2002.
But Fourmaux wasn’t wise to the approaching Fourmaux behind and cost his eighth-placed team-mate over 40s caught in his dust.
Breen was initially frustrated at the hindrance but was pragmatic when he reached the end of the stage, having cost Takamoto Katsuta several seconds himself on Friday.
“I did it yesterday to somebody else, it’s difficult to know how much time you’re losing,” said Breen. “Normally the FIA look after us so let’s see.”
Gus Greensmith had been 12th overall and looking well placed to creep back into the top 10 and snare some drivers’ points, but he rolled his Puma Rally1 on Soysambu.
Approaching an acute right-hander, Greensmith got wedged in a rut and his car gently tipped sideways and rolled three-quarters of the way over, landing on co-driver Jonas Andersson’s side.
The Puma was righted onto all four wheels and after a delay, Greensmith continued and made it to the end of the stage, albeit after losing a hefty 23 minutes.
Out front, a stage win for Evans vaulted him past Katsuta, but despite losing 6.3s to Evans on the stage, Kalle Rovanperä’s rally lead actually increased to 16.1s.
Katsuta lost some 18.8s to Evans and now trails by 11s overall – 27.1s behind Rovanperä – and insisted “everything’s fine” despite admitting he was “confused” by some of his pacenotes.
Ott Tänak had trailed Evans by 2.9s after Friday but his deficit to the Toyota driver ballooned to 17.5s on SS8.
Team-mate Thierry Neuville has closed in too to 21.2s back, but he was still “struggling with the handling with the car” and also visibility.
“In a fast left-hander there was a tree and it touched the windscreen and it’s broken, so the visibility wasn’t good at the end of the stage,” Neuville said.
Sébastien Ogier is safe in sixth place but the third Hyundai of Oliver Solberg dropped another minute when he found a rock in the road and had no choice but to drive over it, suffering two punctures.
Sébastien Loeb also got through cleanly as he restarted following his small engine fire on Friday. The nine-time world champion enjoyed seeing fewer rocks on the road as the first car onto the stage and set the fifth best time.