Sébastien Ogier has pulled clear of Takamoto Katsuta at the head of Safari Rally Kenya with just the powerstage remaining.
Ogier and his far less experienced Toyota stablemate Katsuta shared the lead heading into the penultimate stage in Kenya, the second pass of Loldia.
Both drivers took a cautious approach on the previous test which was incredibly rough, but Ogier opened the taps on SS17 to boss proceedings and carve open an 8.3s lead, virtue of beating Katsuta by that margin.
Katsuta survived a moment towards the end of the stage where he went a bit too deep into a right-hander, but it was quickly recovered. He set the fourth fastest time behind the two M-Sport Fords.
Fresh from claiming his first ever stage win in the WRC, Adrien Fourmaux got the better of M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith again on the Safari’s penultimate stage and was second-quickest on the test, 3.8s slower than Ogier.
Fourmaux, starting his third world championship rally in a WRC car, took 2.4s from his slightly more experienced team-mate to carry a 4.7s advantage into the powerstage.
Ott Tänak remains third, 22.9s ahead of Fourmaux while Kalle Rovanperä stuck to his motive of just bringing his car home in sixth. He is expected to pick up his pace on the powerstage though with bonus points on offer.
Elfyn Evans retains 10th, pulling comfortably 24s clear of Lorenzo Bertelli, but he’s unlikely to make any advances on the powerstage as the WRC3 runners are minutes ahead.
Onkar Rai leads the category with just one stage to go, three minutes ahead of Karan Patel with Carl Tundo a similar distance behind his rival.
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) 7m35.0s
2 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +3.8s
3 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +6.2s
4 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +8.3s
5 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +8.6s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +12.3s
Leading positions after SS17
1 Ogier/Ingrassia 3h11m56.4s
2 Katsuta/Barritt +8.3s
3 Tänak/Järveoja +1m18.0s
4 Fourmaux/Jamoul +1m40.9s
5 Greensmith/Patterson +1m45.6s
6 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +11m01.s
7 Onkar Rai/Drew Sturrock (Volkswagen) +28m30.6s
8 Karan Patel/Tauseef Khan (Ford) +32m14.5s
9 Carl Tundo/Timothy Jessop (Volkswagen) +35m35.0s
10 Evans/Martin +49m29.3s