Thierry Neuville and Kalle Rovanperä’s battle for second on Rally Spain remains on a knife edge, as the pair were only 0.1s apart on Sunday’s opening stage.
A late push by Neuville on the Salou powerstage on Saturday evening, combined with a nightmare run for Rovanperä through El Montmell that had left him 10s off the pace, had shaken up the second place battle heading into Sunday.
But neither driver could make an impact on Pratdip, the duo only a tenth of a second apart.
“I have anyway not so easy situation as Thierry,” said Rovanperä, who is 1.5s behind the lead Hyundai in third. “For sure I want to still finish on the good points and bring the car home. I think he will be pushing us hard but let’s see what we can do.”
Sébastien Ogier continues to lead the way for Toyota but was playing it safe on the Sunday opener, going only eighth fastest.
“It was an easy start for us this morning,” said Ogier, whose lead over Neuville decreased to 17.5s. “[I] tried to stay very safe with every cut and rocks on the road.”
Ott Tänak is aiming for a much calmer end to his rally than the heart-stopping moment he had on El Montmell’s second pass on Saturday, where he ran miles wide on a fast right and filled up the front end of his Hyundai with long grass.
“Today is just about coming to the finish, nothing I can catch up,” said Tänak.
There was a little early-morning hesitancy from Dani Sordo, who admitted that “I brake too early in some places, I can do a little bit better.”
Not that he needed to – he went fastest on Pratdip, extending his advantage in fifth place to 16.2s as closest rival Elfyn Evans suffered a highly unusual moment.
Some light damage to the front of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 came courtesy of the local agriculture, which had run out in front of his car in the dark.
“Some animals crossing the road, some pigs or something,” explained Evans when asked about where the damage had come from. “I had to slow down quite a lot. I think I hit one of them.”
While Evans was making bacon, M-Sport had cooked up a fix for Breen’s overloaded front axle that had slowed him throughout Saturday and overworked his tires.
“We discovered something with the car last night that was maybe causing us a bit of delay yesterday,” explained Breen. “It felt better in there,” he confirmed, as the gap to Evans in sixth was reduced slightly to 10.9s.
A battle over eighth place is unexpectedly back on again, as Adrien Fourmaux carved 5.5s out of the fourth Toyota of Takamoto Katsuta.
Across Saturday’s stages Katsuta had edged further ahead but lost most of that progress in one foul swoop, as Fourmaux felt in his element in the dark.
“You know, I really like to drive in the dark,” said Fourmaux, who is now 9.6s behind Katsuta. “It’s such an amazing thing. With a World Rally Car in the night, it’s amazing,” seemingly forgetting he’s now in a Rally1 car.
Katsuta indicated he’d struggled his way through Pratdip, by comparison: “I could not follow a few corners from the information.”
Unlike his compatriot at M-Sport, 10th-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet admitted to being “a bit careful with the dark,” hence being eight seconds off Fourmaux’s pace.
Gus Greensmith was back out on the stages after his Saturday shunt, the M-Sport mechanics having successfully patched up his battered Ford Puma.