Ott Tänak’s transmission problem has been fixed, but he still lost 0.4 seconds to Elfyn Evans in the fight for second place on Ypres Rally Belgium.
Tänak had reported a transmission issue over the second half of the morning loop, and he duly dropped to 16.2 seconds off the lead – even if the rally leader Thierry Neuville wasn’t sure Tänak genuinely had a problem.
But after service with the problem cured, Tänak’s pace picked up – drawing level with Neuville in both of the first two splits.
The Rally Finland winner dropped some time towards the end of the stage, actually ceding 0.4s to Evans despite being as much as 2.1s up – meaning his gap overall shrunk to just 4.9s, but Tänak was at least back in the groove.
“Yeah this problem is fixed, it’s just different settings so I need to get used to it a bit,” he said. “But it’s working OK.”
Neuville went fastest for the third stage in succession, growing his lead to a potentially unassailable 18.3s.
“I had a clean run,” Neuville said, “I don’t like this stage so I’m too careful in the cuts all the time.”
Esappeka Lappi isn’t involved in a battle on the leaderboard, but almost took himself out of the running when a wild slide on the exit of a corner meant his Toyota was flirting with a roadside ditch.
The ditch was lurking, waiting to suck him in, but Lappi managed to avoid the error and continued on his way.
“It was quite slippery to be fair,” Lappi said, “more pollution than yesterday so yeah it’s tricky.”
Over the course of Saturday morning, Adrien Fourmaux had the measure of Oliver Solberg, jumping passed him into fifth overall.
But the 4.5s advantage the M-Sport driver had constructed is suddenly looking less secure, as Solberg beat Fourmaux by 2.9s on the first stage out of service.
Solberg had struggled with understeer on the first loop but there was a happier driver aboard the Hyundai in the afternoon.
“It was better now the car than it was before, I could play more with the car, but with two spares on the fast staff it can be a bit dodgy,” Solberg said.
Fourmaux countered: “It’s been a clean stage for us, it’s quite dirty so I just don’t want mistakes.”
Takamoto Katsuta is now a lonely seventh, having climbed back into the top 10 over the course of the morning following his gearbox drama on Friday.
His pace on SS13 was impressive, as Katsuta went fourth quickest.
Gus Greensmith is far adrift of the points-paying positions following his trip into a field that damaged the rear-left corner of his car in the morning.
His M-Sport Ford Puma Rally1 is back in full working order but Greensmith’s time was some way off the rest, 9.3s shy of team-mate Fourmaux who was the second slowest Rally1 car on the stage.