Takamoto Katsuta took a surprise first World Rally Championship stage win of the season as Thierry Neuville fell further adrift of the leading Toyotas on Saturday’s second stage.
Toyota’s Katsuta, who is opening the road on Saturday’s stages, claimed his second-ever WRC stage win and his first since he triumphed on the powerstage on last year’s season-ending Monza Rally.
Katsuta’s previous best of the weekend was sixth place on Friday’s opening stage. The victory on the 12.9-mile Stojdraga – Gornja Vas test still leaves him over two minutes off the lead in eighth place.
Hyundai driver Neuville, who led the rally for the entirety of Friday but dropped to third on Saturday’s opening test, leaked further time to Toyota duo Sébastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans.
The gap between third-placed Neuville and rally leader Ogier is now 15.5 seconds, after Neuville could only manage the eighth-fastest time on the stage.
Ogier was second fastest, 3.4s slower than his Toyota team-mate Katsuta, with Evans in third completing a Yaris 1-2-3 on the stage.
Ott Tänak was fourth quickest and he’s now only 18.3s behind his Hyundai team-mate, having started the day 31.9s adrift of Neuville.
Adrien Fourmaux could not replicate the stunning second-fastest stage time that he set on the previous test, but he was still able to scoop his fourth top-five stage placing of the rally to remain in fifth place overall.
2C Competition Hyundai’s Pierre-Louis Loubet was able to overhaul Fourmaux’s M-Sport Ford team-mate Gus Greensmith for sixth place. If he can stay there, it will mark his best result in the championship.
Katsuta’s stage win allows him to extend his advantage over Hyundai driver Craig Breen, who is trying to recover the time he lost on the previous stage when he had to stop to change a puncture on his i20 Coupe WRC.
However, of the World Rally Cars Breen was only quicker than Greensmith and his team-mate Neuville on Saturday’s second stage.
Just two tenths separated WRC2 drivers Nikolay Gryazin (pictured above) and Mads Østberg on SS10. The latter is leading the class in the new Citroën C3 Rally2, just 2.1s ahead of Gryazin’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Both drivers were beaten on the stage by Teemu Suninen, who is stepping back to the second-tier this weekend for the first time in three years. Suninen is 56s adrift of Østberg in third place.
Yohan Rossel earned a second successive WRC3 stage win to extend his slender leading advantage over Kajetan Kajetanowicz to 8.4s.
1 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) 12m36.9s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +3.4s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +5.7s
4 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +6.2s
5 Adrien Fourmaux/Renaud Jamoul (M-Sport Ford) +7.6s
6 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (2C Competition Hyundai) +10.8s
Leading positions after SS10
1 Ogier/Ingrassia 1h20m50.9s
2 Evans/Martin +5.4s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +15.5s
4 Tänak/Järveoja +33.8s
5 Fourmaux/Jamoul +1m13.2s
6 Loubet/Landais +1m38.9s
7 Gus Greensmith/Chris Patterson (M-Sport Ford) +1m44.7s
8 Katsuta/Barritt +2m24.5s
9 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +3m17.8s
10 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +4m34.5s