Sébastien Ogier took his second and Toyota’s fourth stage win of Sunday to put Elfyn Evans into the shade in their battle for third place on Rally Estonia.
Evans was fastest on the first run of Arula earlier in the morning but he couldn’t live with Ogier on the second. Evans lost another 2.4 seconds to Ogier to inflate his deficit to the six-time world champion to 13s.
“I think now it’s better, it felt definitely better but conditions are so different, take a look, it’s a rough rally,” Ogier said.
“First loop is more fun to drive but second you can make more difference actually.”
Evans hasn’t wholly given up on catching his team-mate but he’s aware it’s going to be a tall order.
“It’s a big gap to catch in a short space of time,” he confessed. “But we’re just trying to keep a rhythm so that we’re there at least.”
The third Toyota of Kalle Rovanperä was quicker than Evans by 1.5s – setting the same time as second placed Craig Breen – on Arula 2, but the time is fairly meaningless with a 49.6s gap between the pair.
Ott Tänak still leads the rally over Hyundai team-mate Breen, and just like in the morning, neither driver was throwing caution to the wind. The lead gap did increase though as Tänak edged Breen by 0.2s; 0.7s slower than stage winner Ogier.
Esapekka Lappi was shaded by Teemu Suninen in their battle for sixth place and top M-Sport driver. Suninen nicked 0.1s away from his team-mate on SS15 to reduce his deficit to 3.7s with two stages remaining.
Lappi had made set-up changes to his Ford Fiesta WRC on Saturday night, but the end of SS14 was the first indication as to whether it had been a positive change.
“Ummm,” Lappi laughed. “Sort of yes and sort of no. To be fair there is not a huge difference unfortunately, I really hoped there was something.”
Gus Greensmith span the other M-Sport Fiesta WRC in the ruts at the final corner of the stage, coming to a halt just meters before the flying finish. The Briton got the car turned around to hold onto eighth, and was still 6.4s faster than Thierry Neuville who reverted to tire saving mode.
“The ruts just turned me around,” Greensmith said.
“Tried to find a nice rhythm, sometimes it’s good and sometimes you’re in a rut. We turned in and next thing we were round so yeah, not good.”
1 Ogier (Toyota) 3m14.7s
2 Tänak (Hyundai) +0.7s
3 Breen (Hyundai) +0.9s
4 Rovanperä (Toyota) +0.9s
5 Evans (Toyota) +2.4s
6 Suninen (Ford) +6.0s
Leading positions after SS15
1 Tänak (Hyundai) 1h40m56.9s
2 Breen (Hyundai) +12.7s
3 Ogier (Toyota) +26.3s
4 Evans (Toyota) +39.3s
5 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1m28.9s
6 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +2m13.8s
7 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +2m17.5s
8 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +4m10.0s
9 Solberg (Volkswagen) +6m28.9s
10 Østberg (Citroën) +7m01.8s