Sébastien Ogier has brought Thierry Neuville’s streak of Rally Spain stage wins to an end, pulling further clear of Dani Sordo in the process as the Hyundai driver remarked Ogier is now in a “Sébastien Ogier mood”.
Ogier has spent most of the penultimate round of the 2021 World Rally Championship defending his third spot from Sordo, heading into Saturday afternoon with just a 0.2-second advantage.
But the Toyota driver has been on form across Saturday’s second loop as he made some positive set-up changes to his Yaris WRC.
Ogier beat Sordo by 1.3s and Neuville by 1.2s on SS12, to extend his cushion to fourth to 6.9s.
“He’s a little bit more quick this afternoon, he’s starting to have a Sébastien Ogier mood,” Sordo said of Ogier’s pace.
“It’s close all the time but this afternoon he’s taking a little bit of time, too much time, but we keep pushing to the end.”
“Better late than never!” Ogier responded when Sordo’s comments were put to him.
“It’s been a tough first half of the rally for us, we’ve been working a lot on the car but now it’s starting to work better.
“I’ve never spent so long changing a car during a race but at least now it’s better.”
Conversely, team-mate Elfyn Evans has gone the wrong with his set-up. He simply hasn’t been able to live with Neuville and is now 14.2s behind; almost as close to Ogier as he is Neuville now with 18s in hand over his title rival.
“It’s been a frustrating afternoon,” said Evans. “We gambled to try and change some stuff to improve the car for the afternoon but it’s not gone in the right direction unfortunately so it’s not been good.”
Further back, 2C Hyundai team-mates Nil Solans and Oliver Solberg were closely matched on SS12, split by just 0.1s in Solberg’s favor. Solberg felt the area he needs to work on is tire management while Solans was simply loving the opportunity of driving a World Rally Car for the very first time.
“I think in 2021 I don’t need more sex I’m done for this year,” he said, putting his hands together in appraisal. “Amazing.”
Gus Greensmith was also in the same ballpark as the two 2C Competition Hyundais on the stage, finishing 0.3s off of Solberg and 0.2s shy of Solans.
That keeps Greensmith in seventh overall – just ahead of Solans – but there was a warning on the dashboard of his M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC.
“It’s something with one of the sensors,” Greensmith clarified. “It’s not controlling the cooling package so I was having to monitor the temperature throughout the stage, but thankfully we’re here.”
Team-mate Adrien Fourmaux concurred with that sentiment. Pressing on following his small crash on the previous test that damaged his car, Fourmaux removed the front-left driveshaft and changed a steering arm before SS12.
“It’s a shame, it was a really small mistake but it’s part of the game unfortunately, but we are here,” Fourmaux said. “It was interesting to drive in this condition, the tires are completely dead with the wheels like that [at a bent angle].”
He completed the stage over a minute slower than the leaders.
Fourmaux’s slide outside the top 10 has caused Kalle Rovanperä to change his tact too. The Toyota driver is in a very lonely fifth overall; 30.5s adrift of Sordo’s Hyundai but 2m03.2s clear of Solberg’s i20 Coupe WRC.
“Adrien was the only one really close to me so for sure I don’t push so much anymore,” Rovanperä said. “I was coming quite carefully.”
Toyota junior Takamoto Katsuta is rebuilding his confidence following yet another retirement on Friday, when he crashed into a barrier on the opening stage of the rally.
But his pace on SS12 was impressive as he recorded the fifth fastest stage time.
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) 12m03.7s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1.2s
3 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) +1.3s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +2.7s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +7.0s
6 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +10.5s
Leading positions after SS12
1 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) 2h01m22.1s
2 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +14.2s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +32.2s
4 Sordo/Carrera (Hyundai) +39.1s
5 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +1m09.6s
6 Oliver Solberg/Craig Drew (Hyundai) +3m12.8s
7 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (Ford) +3m40.8s
8 Nil Solans/Marco Marti (Hyundai) +3m47.4s
9 Eric Camilli/Maxime Vilmot (Citroën) +7m47.7s
10 Nikolay Gryazin/Konstantin Aleksandrov (Skoda) +7m56.3s