Takamoto Katsuta claimed his third-ever World Rally Championship stage win on Rally Croatia’s second Saturday afternoon test while 2C Competition Hyundai’s Pierre-Louis Loubet crashed out of sixth place.
Toyota’s Japanese protégé Katsuta posted the fastest time on the 12.9-mile Stojdraga – Gornja Vas stage for the second time this weekend.
The 28-year-old made the most of his first on the road position to replicate his morning performance and beat Elfyn Evans by a single second.
Evans’ second-fastest stage time was 1.4 seconds quicker than his rally-leading Toyota team-mate Sébastien Ogier, reducing the gap between the duo to just 5.5s.
Thierry Neuville was 0.1s quicker than Ogier, meaning he now sits 9.4s off the lead, but the gap between him and Evans’ second-place has grown to 3.9s.
His Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak recorded the fifth-fastest time as he remains in a comfortable but distant fourth position overall.
Adrien Fourmaux, who is making his top-flight WRC debut with M-Sport Ford this weekend, found himself outside of the top five stage times for the first time on Saturday. He still sits in fifth place, some 44.6s behind Tänak.
Loubet was on course for a personal best WRC finish in sixth overall and he was locked in a duel with Fourmaux’s M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith.
There was little separating the duo across the first two split times, but Loubet slid wide on displaced gravel at a high-speed left-hander and his i20 Coupe WRC was sent down the banking and into the bushes.
The Hyundai remained ditched in the bush – both Loubet and his co-driver Vincent Landais emerged unhurt – and it is unlikely it will rejoin for the day’s two remaining stages.
Having placed a season-best fourth on the previous stage, Greensmith was unable to maintain that pace with the eighth-fastest on SS14 time but he did move up to sixth place overall following Loubet’s off.
Greensmith still has 29.8s in hand over the stage-winner Katsuta, who in turn has an advantage of 59.6s over Hyundai’s eighth-placed Craig Breen.
Nikolay Gryazin dropped out of the WRC2 lead battle on the opening stage of the afternoon loop with powersteering woes but hit back in style with a stage win on the SS14.
His sixth class win of the weekend moves him 18.2s off second-placed Teemu Suninen, who has stepped back to the second-tier for the first time in three years.
Mads Østberg’s leading advantage aboard the new Citroën C3 Rally2 over M-Sport Suninen stands at over a minute.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz continues to lead WRC3 with a healthy 45s advantage over Emil Lindholm.
Erstwhile class leader Yohan Rossel’s recovery following a roll on Saturday morning continued with the second fastest-time on stage 14. He sits 30.8s adrift of Chis Ingram, having cut that gap on the stage by 13.6s.
Fellow Citroën C3 Rally2 pilot Nicolas Ciamin topped the stage and is just under a minute off the final place on the class podium.
1 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) 12m36.1s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +1s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2.3s
4 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +2.4s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +4.1s
6 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +8.7s
Leading positions after SS14
1 Ogier/Ingrassia 1h56m27.1s
2 Evans/Martin +5.5s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe +9.4s
4 Tänak/Järveoja +31.4s
5 Fourmaux/Jamoul +1m16s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +2m09.2s
7 Katsuta/Barritt +2m39s
8 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +3m38.6s
9 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +6m20.7s
10 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +7m23.9s