Tänak backs off Neuville as Hyundai issues team orders

After a big push on SS14, Ott Tänak has been told to hold position to preserve Hyundai's podium lockout

Ott Tänak

Ott Tänak has said there’ll be no fight to win Acropolis Rally Greece between himself and Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville, as he said he was asked to hold his second position.

Neuville led the rally by exactly 25 seconds over Tänak heading onto the penultimate stage of the rally, but the possibility of team orders has lingered given Tänak has an outside shot at the drivers’ title and Kalle Rovanperä isn’t set to score many points.

Tänak had been suggesting that he should finish ahead, while Neuville staunchly rejected that notion and said the manufacturers’ title should take priority.

At the end of Sunday morning’s first stage, Tänak said there had been no team orders. But asked again at the end of SS15, he revealed there had now been an instruction – and it wasn’t working in the 2019 champion’s favor.

“Before the stage, we were told to hold the positions, so no more pushing,” Tänak said.

“One stage left, hopefully we’re going to survive this one,” Neuville added. “Nothing is done yet, we cross fingers and keep believing and we’re going to have a steady run through.”

Thierry Neuville

Neuville was 4.3s faster on SS15, growing his lead to 29.3s.

Dani Sordo meanwhile continues to run in a safe third place, in position to help Hyundai secure its first-ever 1-2-3 finish in the World Rally Championship.

“After Evans retired it’s become a totally different day. I just drive,” he said.

Despite describing the stage as a “slippy boy” as first car on the road, Gus Greensmith was again quicker than the two Toyotas – Esapekka Lappi and Rovanperä – immediately behind him.

Powerstage points offer the only salvation for Toyota after it lost its highest-placed driver, Elfyn Evans, on the way to Sunday morning’s opening stage when his engine suddenly lost power.

“There’s not much more we can do,” said championship leader Rovanperä, “we just need to finish now.”

Takamoto Katsuta’s pace on SS15 was far stronger than it had been on the previous stage, where he described his lack of comfort behind the wheel as “dangerous”.

Takamoto Katsuta

“After the last one we changed a few things and it felt so much better,” Katsuta said, “but obviously the stage profile is different to other stages.

“But pleased I felt more grip, thanks to the engineer.”

Craig Breen was still 6.6s faster than Katsuta though to build his advantage over sixth-placed Katsuta to 1m15.6s.

“I’d love to be in the heat of a battle fighting because for sure we have the tools here to do it,” he said, delighted with his M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1.

Pierre-Louis Loubet leads M-Sport’s charge but wasn’t as fast as Breen, as he admitted to taking it carefully in order to just reach the finish and match his best ever WRC result from Italy earlier this season.