Emil Lindholm has charged back from a Friday puncture to take the initiative in the WRC2 title battle, ending Saturday in fourth place while compatriot Teemu Suninen leads the way on Rally Spain.
A showdown between Lindholm and Kajetan Kajetanowicz is set for the WRC2 title, with both effectively tied once dropped scores are taken into account.
Lindholm had already usurped Kajetanowicz for sixth place towards the end of Friday’s action, having been as low as 14th after his Friday puncture.
On the first pass of Querol, Lindholm made his move, passing both M-Sport’s Jari Huttunen and former Subaru factory driver Stéphane Sarrazin simultaneously.
But there was another twist to come as Sarrazin rolled his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on the second pass of Savallà, retiring on the spot and promoting Kajetanowicz from seventh to sixth.
Lindholm was the first car to arrive on the scene after Sarrazin’s crash and was held up while passing his car, with the stage red flagged thereafter.
Lindholm was later given a notional time identical to that of Kajetanowicz, meaning he’s now half a minute behind Gryazin in the final podium position and 14.1s up on Huttunen in fifth.
“[It’s] sad to see Sarrazin out of course and hopefully he was OK. He was out of the car already and guiding us past his car, which was on its roof,” Lindholm told DirtFish.
“It was just a really dirty right-hand corner,” added Lindholm, explaining how Sarrazin had ended up on his roof. “Nothing special other than the dirt actually.”
While neither title contender is in clear podium contention it’s still an important battle, with such fine margins in the championship standings at present.
Before the rally began, Lindholm made clear that outscoring Kajetanowicz was his only priority – and his approach remains unchanged, regardless of how close the podium places end up being.
“We just try to do our work and enjoy it as well. Obviously kept an eye on the Polish guy but not too much. The situation is good now, we can even drop one place and it wouldn’t matter the world. I guess it’s looking OK.”
Kajetanowicz is 18.4s behind Huttunen with only four stages remaining, though is well clear of last year’s Junior WRC champion Sami Pajari in seventh.
“I would like to be in front of him [Lindholm] but that’s how it is,” said Kajetanowicz. “I do my job and I hope we can be a little bit faster tomorrow.”
Up front, Teemu Suninen pulled away as Gryazin struggled massively for pace, with Yohan Rossel blazing past into second with his Citroën C3 Rally2 despite his lack of experience on Spanish asphalt.
“I’m pleased for today,” said Suninen. “We were able to increase the gap to behind a bit. In the afternoon we were a little bit able to control the situation. There were lots of cuts in places and the risk to get a puncture is quite high, so we tried to be clever.”
Suninen will be hoping not to relive the nightmare of Rally Portugal, where he led comfortably heading to the powerstage, only to crash off into some trees shortly after setting off onto the final test and ending up with nothing.
“Still four stages to go tomorrow,” Suninen added. “It’s quite tricky, this one, so there’s no room for the mistakes. So we have to keep going like this and see where we end up.”
Coincidentally, Rossel was also running second behind Suninen in Portugal and inherited victory on the final stage there.