Sébastien Ogier strengthened his grip on Rally Spain with his second stage win of Saturday, topping the times on Savallà to push his lead into double digits.
Ogier’s advantage over Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanperä has now grown to 12 seconds – and during midday service Rovanperä had already indicated he wasn’t willing to take the necessary risks to chase his eight-time world champion rival down.
“I can [go faster] but then it’s a lot of risk,” he told DirtFish.
“I think the puncture risk is also quite high. When everyone knows the stages, it just becomes who takes the biggest cuts and most risks in the cuts. I’m not so comfortable to take much more [risk].”
Ogier himself knew that he couldn’t afford to back off, even if his lead looks rather secure for now.
“Very good lead? It’s a small 10 seconds. It’s far from over,” he declared.
“For sure, honestly, I have to keep doing the same as I’ve done so far.”
Thierry Neuville’s pursuit of Rovanperä for second faced a minor setback as he lost half a second, increasing the gap between them to exactly five seconds.
His Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak was second fastest but his time gain was minimal, still sitting 12.4s off the podium places in fourth.
Fifth place has become something of a three-way battle after Dani Sordo struggled his way through the Saturday morning loop, falling into the clutches of Elfyn Evans and Craig Breen behind.
But Sordo finally turned up the wick on the second pass of Savallà, putting an extra 1.9s between himself and Evans in sixth – the gap increased to 4.9s overall as a consequence.
Breen meanwhile failed to make any meaningful inroads into sixth place, gaining only a tenth on Evans in the third Toyota.
With Gus Greensmith now out of the running following his El Montmell shunt, M-Sport team-mate Adrien Fourmaux can now focus solely on Takamoto Katsuta ahead of him in the fourth Toyota.
But it was Katsuta who put the hammer down on the second pass of Savallà, going 4.2s faster to strengthen his grip over eighth place to 10.7s.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was slower than his M-Sport colleagues once again (bar gentleman driver Jourdan Serderidis) and his 10th place now looks a very lonely one, with the gap to Fourmaux growing to 36.7s.