Ott Tänak survived a twitchy moment through the ruts to lie just one stage away from a famous home World Rally Championship victory on Rally Estonia, leading Hyundai stable-mate Craig Breen by 13.2 seconds.
Tänak was third fastest on the stage – 0.5s quicker than Breen – but had his nerve tested when his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC bounced out the ruts and almost catapulted into the trees. The reigning World Rally Champion wrestled back control however to finish the stage unscathed.
Kalle Rovanperä was quickest on the first pass of Kaagvere on Sunday’s first loop and repeated the feat on the second to maintain his hold on fifth place, behind his two Toyota team-mates.
Sébastien Ogier has put yet more fresh air between himself and Elfyn Evans, all but ensuring that he’ll take third place with a barrier of 17.9s to Evans.
Esapekka Lappi gifted sixth place to his team-mate Teemu Suninen on the rally’s penultimate test after spinning his M-Sport Fiesta in sixth gear in the ruts on the same left-hander that caused Tänak a heart-stopping moment.
Mercifully the only damage done was to the timesheets, Lappi surrendering 13.6s and slipping behind by 9.9s with just the powerstage remaining.
Gus Greensmith is ensuring it stays an M-Sport 6-7-8 ahead of the leading R5 drivers from WRC2 and WRC3.
1 Rovanperä (Toyota) 8m34.1s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +2.8s
3 Tänak (Hyundai) +4.2s
4 Breen (Hyundai) +4.7s
5 Evans (Toyota) +7.7s
6 Suninen (Ford) +11.3s
Leading positions after SS16
1 Tänak (Hyundai) 1h49m35.2s
2 Breen (Hyundai) +13.2s
3 Ogier (Toyota) +24.9s
4 Evans (Toyota) +42.8s
5 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1m24.7s
6 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +2m24.6s
7 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +2m34.5s
8 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +4m28.4s
9 Solberg (Volkswagen) +6m56.8s
10 Østberg (Citroën) +7m32.8s