Thierry Neuville claimed his second stage victory of Croatia Rally, closing the gap to the leading pair of Kalle Rovanperä and Ott Tänak.
Neuville had lost 18s to Tänak on SS11, but he regained 2.9s of that on the Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa test, to leave him 1m07.02s behind his team-mate, and 26.2s behind M-Sport’s Craig Breen who is in third place.
But while Neuville closed the gap to his team-mate, it was Tänak who will be the happier of the two, completing the stage 1.9s faster than rally leader Rovanperä to reduce that gap down to 16.8s.
Breen is still clinging on to the podium, but he was lucky not have lost more time, having slid off the road at a hairpin midway through the 5.45 mile test.
“I thought I could leave my braking a little bit later but it wasn’t to be,” Breen said when asked what happened at the corner.
“I probably dropped about eight or 10 seconds with that, but there we go.”
Breen ended up right between an barrier and a small brick wall, but managed to get his Ford Puma Rally1 back out fairly quickly to complete the stage in 4m51.5s.
Elfyn Evans seems to have rediscovered some of his form on Saturday’s morning loop, with another top two stage result for the day, but it was Pierre-Louis Loubet who impressed the most.
He was fourth fastest, setting an identical time to Tänak, and he was pleased with how his run through the stage panned out, but the same could not be said for his M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith.
Greensmith lost more valuable time on Vinski Vrh – Duga Resa, picking up yet another puncture, his fifth of the rally, and just like Evans reported yesterday, he wasn’t 100% sure where he picked it up.
“[It happened] near the beginning of the stage. Puncture number five of the weekend,” said Greensmith.
“I noticed it after a jump, so maybe it happened on the landing.”
Takamoto Katsuta had a better run through SS12 in comparison to the stage prior, ending up with the sixth fastest time to remain sixth overall, while Espakka Lappi was seventh fastest.
Lappi was eight seconds shy of the fastest time, and he will be ruing what could have been, as he made the same mistake as Breen by going off the road at the same hairpin.
The Toyota driver had to reverse back out onto the road, losing him at least 5s, and he would have no doubt been challenging for the stage win without the mishap.
Yohan Rossel continues to lead the way in WRC2, but he lost 2.2s to Nikolay Gryazin who is now 41.6s behind.
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 4m39.9s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +0.8s
3 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +2.9s
4 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +2.9s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +4.3s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +7.1s
7 Esapekka Lappi/Jenne Ferm (Toyota) +8.0s
8 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +11.6s
9 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda) +19.6s
10 Emil Lindholm/Hämäläinen (Škoda) +22.0s
Leading positions after SS12
1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 1h51m02.3s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +16.8s
3 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +57.8s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1m24.0s
5 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +2m01.2s
6 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +4m15.8s
7 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +6m29.7s
8 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +7m11.3s
9 Eric Camilli/Thibault De La Haye (Citroën) +7m33.4s
10 Kajetanowicz/Szczepaniak (Škoda) +7m42.4s