Thierry Neuville has won SS18 of Croatia Rally to move himself up into the final podium position.
Gus Greensmith was leading the stage, having set a time of 8m32.2s, but Neuville managed to go 6.4s faster on his run through Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec to take the stage victory.
While everything worked out for the Hyundai driver, his rival for third place, Craig Breen, struggled for pace and ended up losing 12.6 seconds.
That stage result means Neuville now holds a 7.8s advantage over the M-Sport driver, with just two stages of the rally remaining.
“I could do nothing more in there – absolutely zero,” said a frustrated Breen at the end of the test.
Ott Tänak managed to regain some ground on Kalle Rovanperä at the head of the field, but the Toyota driver still retains a clear lead overall.
Rovanperä was 2.7s slower than Tänak in the 8.75-mile stage, and his overall lead on the rally is now 28.4s. However Tänak believes he was aided by the poor road conditions.
“In the beginning it was a bit more dirty and probably there it was OK, but in the second part it turned dry,” he said.
“I think we were lucky it was so dirty, otherwise we would have lost a lot of time.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet continued his strong Saturday form, going fourth fastest and 7.4s slower than Neuville, while Elfyn Evans could only manage sixth.
Esapekka Lappi was the only Rally1 driver to have any real issues on Zagorska Sela – Kumrovec. He missed a 90° left-hander, going straight on, and he lost valuable time turning his GR Yaris around, ending up over 18.8s off the pace.
Yohan Rossel extended his WRC2 lead by another three seconds, The Citroën driver remains seventh overall in the rally.
It was Emil Lindholm who was the fastest Rally2 driver on SS18 ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who is battling to reduce the gap to Nikloay Gryazin for second place in WRC2. He went into the stage 11.1s adrift of Gryazin, but he halved that, reducing the deficit down to just 5.7s with two stages to play for.
“Everything is open as you see,” Kajetanowicz said. “But I try to do my job as good as possible.
“This stage is more slippery than last year, so we are pushing but careful, let’s say. We are happy.”
1 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 8m25.9s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +4.8s
3 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +6.4s
4 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +7.4s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +7.5s
6 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +12.3s
7 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +14.6s
8 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +15.6s
9 Esapekka Lappi/Jenne Ferm (Toyota) +18.8s
10 Emil Lindholm/Reeta Hämäläinen (Škoda) +35.3s
Leading positions after SS18
1 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) 2h30m34.4s
2 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) +28.4s
3 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1m12.7s
4 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +1m20.5s
5 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +2m21.8s
6 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +5m59.0s
7 Yohan Rossel/Valentin Sarreaud (Citroën) +8m32.2s
8 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +10m20.9s
9 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Škoda) +10m26.6s
10 Lindholm/Hämäläinen (Škoda) +10m59.6s