Thierry Neuville has become the third retiree of Saturday on Rally Finland, parking his Hyundai up halfway through the stage as Elfyn Evans hit back at Ott Tänak in the fight for the lead.
Neuville had been lying fifth, setting comparable stage times with Sébastien Ogier but hoping to reel in Esapekka Lappi in fourth.
But those hopes are now very much on ice as onboard cameras picked up Neuville’s i20 Coupe WRC driving at a heavily reduced pace and missing its light pod.
Neuville then took to a stage access road and parked up the car, but there has been no confirmation as yet as to what occurred to lead to him to stop.
None of this was of any concern to rally leader Evans. Having won all of Saturday morning’s stages, his rival Tänak had put together a streak of his own to win three tests on the bounce.
I don’t remember oneEvans on his big SS14 moment
But Evans pulled the plug on Tänak’s plans, outpacing the Hyundai by 1.4s to extend his lead to 9.1s; despite a seemingly wild moment where Evans’ Toyota was briefly in a ditch.
That moment didn’t seem to register with Evans though as when asked about any moments on the stage, he simply replied: “I don’t remember one.”
Craig Breen meanwhile has continued to fall backwards, dropping another 6.2s on SS14. He’s now 18.3s behind the leader and 9.2s shy of his team-mate Tänak.
“When you have it in your hands and it starts to go away of course it’s very disappointing,” said Breen, who had led the rally going into Saturday.
“We have to be realistic, I know that’s not what people want to hear, but to get that last 1% at 200kmh in the forest is really difficult. That last little bit, we need to find it.”
Ogier is now up to fifth place courtesy of Neuville’s exit and beat Lappi’s similar Yaris WRC by just 0.1s on the stage. However he is a distant 35.6s behind overall.
Gus Greensmith survived a wild moment over a crest early on the stage where the front of his Ford Fiesta WRC lifted up more than he had expected.
It created an awkward landing for Greensmith who was initially veering to the left, but the M-Sport driver recovered the moment to flick his car into the approaching right-hand bend and continued on his way.
He beat his team-mate Adrien Fourmaux by 3.4s, with the two M-Sport cars promoted to sixth and seventh following Neuville’s retirement.
1 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) 10m09.2s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +1.4s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +5.9s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +8.0s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +8.1s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +26.4s
Leading positions after SS14
1 Evans/Martin (Toyota) 1h55m58.3s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +9.1s
3 Breen/Nagle (Hyundai) +18.3s
4 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +47.9s
5 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +1m23.5s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +4m12.5s
7 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +5m29.6s
8 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Volkswagen) +8m16.1s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +8m24.4s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +8m49.6s