Thierry Neuville has controlled the second day of Rally Spain, beating rival Elfyn Evans on every single stage to carry a 16.4-second lead into Sunday.
As has become tradition, the Salou street stage on the seafront of the coastal town concluded Saturday’s action and as usual it proved a sharp sting in the tail despite its short length.
Sébastien Ogier was just one driver to be hampered as a stall cost him 5.7s to Dani Sordo, who began the stage 6.9s behind him in fourth.
It means all of Ogier’s hard work to build a barrier and protect his third position was almost undone as he has just 1.2s in hand over Sordo now.
“The engine stalled, no idea why,” Ogier said. “i was on the clutch like normal on any hairpin, just stall.”
Sordo’s stage time was strong however, albeit not strong enough to topple his rally-leading Hyundai team-mate Neuville who chalked up another stage win on Salou; sealing six of Saturday’s seven tests.
Elfyn Evans was third fastest on Salou, 2.2s slower than Neuville, to trail by 16.4s overall. He has 22.3s over team-mate Ogier while the third Toyota of Kalle Rovanperä is an anonymous fifth, 32.4s behind Sordo.
Gus Greensmith climbed up to sixth on the final stage of the day as previous incumbent Oliver Solberg lost the clutch on his Hyundai.
“It was not so easy to go around that stage without stalling or without having issues,” he said having lost 28s to Greensmith, leaving him 0.7s behind overall in seventh.
Nil Solans stalled his 2C Competition Hyundai on the Salou stage, but he made it to the end of another day unscathed in a strong eighth position on his first ever event in a World Rally Car. He is deputizing for Pierre-Louis Loubet, who was injured in a traffic accident in Paris earlier this month.
Adrien Fourmaux made it through Salou but put on a wild performance with just two-wheel-drive on his Ford Fiesta WRC, carrying damage from an incident on SS11 where he clipped an Armco barrier.
He was over 30s off the pace on the 1.3-mile stage.
Eric Camilli leads WRC2 and the Rally2 class in ninth overall, but is just 9.7s ahead of Nikolay Gryazin who is driving a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo for Toksport this weekend.
Mads Østberg is fourth in class behind Teemu Suninen – debuting for Hyundai – and European Rally Championship regular Erik Cais as he bids to recover from a puncture on Friday. He needs to score at least 18 points to stand any chance of retaining his WRC2 title, but can currently only score a maximum of 17 points.
In Junior WRC, Sami Pajari is a day away from the title as series favorite and erstwhile Jon Armstrong fell out of contention. Armstrong went off the road on the opening stage of the day and lost five minutes, but launched a comeback with points available for winning stages in class. However on SS11 he broke the front-left wheel and was forced to retire.
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 2m23.6s
2 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +0.8s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.2s
4 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +2.4s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +2.7s
6 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Skoda) +3.4s
Leading positions after SS13
1 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 2h03m45.7s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +16.4
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +38.7s
4 Sordo/Carrera (Hyundai) +39.9s
5 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +1m12.3s
6 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (Ford) +3m45.2s
7 Oliver Solberg/Craig Drew (Hyundai) +3m45.9s
8 Nil Solans/Marco Marti (Hyundai) +3m53.8s
9 Eric Camilli/Maxime Vilmot (Citroën) +7m52.8s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Skoda) +8m02.5s