Tänak leads Evans in Ypres after Neuville’s crash

Ott Tänak is fending off Toyota alone after his team-mates crash from the lead


Ott Tänak carries an 8.2-second lead over Elfyn Evans into the final day of Ypres Rally Belgium.

Tänak had been almost 20 seconds behind his Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville after being slowed by a transmission problem in the morning, and likely settling for second spot.

But when Neuville ran wide, got sucked into a ditch and damaged the front right of his i20 beyond repair, Tänak was handed a lifeline and assumed the lead of the rally.

Quicker than Evans’ Toyota by 1.9s on the final stage of Saturday, Tänak is in the box seat for his first back-to-back victories in the WRC since signing for Hyundai.


Asked for his reaction to leading the rally at the expense of Neuville, Tänak clearly hadn’t forgotten Neuville’s doubt over his transmission problem earlier in the day.

“Like he said before that probably I don’t have an issue, I don’t know,” Tänak said.

“It’s a shame what happened for sure but I think inside the team we shouldn’t fight with each other we should fight for others. I don’t know what he was thinking.”

Evans has been faster than Tänak over the course of the rally by 1.8s; the entirety of his 8.2s deficit to the leader is down to a penalty he incurred for a late check-in on Friday.

“We’re just doing what we can,” Evans confirmed. “Ott’s going well obviously, but we’re still close.”

Esapekka Lappi is on course for a second consecutive WRC podium – third in Finland and running third in Belgium too.

“It’s a long, long way to go,” Lappi said. “Like we saw on the previous stage it’s so easy to do a mistake, so I don’t want to be happy yet.

“I want to finish in a different style to last rally,” he added, referencing his penultimate stage roll in Finland.


Adrien Fourmaux had been running ahead of Oliver Solberg but dropped behind on Saturday’s penultimate stage when he checked in two minutes late, stopped by the police on the road section for overtaking traffic in a bid to make the stage on time.

The M-Sport driver took yet another 3.1s out of Solberg on SS16, but with a 20s penalty he’s 14.3s behind in fifth overall.

“I’m really, really happy about my day honestly, it’s really good for confidence and to believe in yourself. It’s positive,” Fourmaux said.

“We were eighth this morning, we will see tonight [if we can get our 20s penalty removed] but it’s really positive.”

Solberg meanwhile is on course for his best ever WRC result in fourth, admitting to backing off on SS16 as his tires became “warm”.

“Yeah it’s not too bad,” he said.

“For sure it’s very sad to hear about Thierry – it’s his home race and it’s never nice when you have so many fans and friends and family. But it’s good for us.”

Kalle Rovanperä had a quietly impressive day running at the head of the field, winning the day’s first test and consistently keeping pace with the top three – typified with a second-best time on Saturday’s last stage.


Rovanperä will leave Ypres with his championship lead still healthily intact regardless of what happens, but nonetheless will be shooting for five powerstage points on Sunday.

“It’s never easy to drive when you have nothing to drive for,” he said, “but still we did some nice stage times and that was the mindset – just enjoy the driving.”

Takamoto Katsuta did have something to drive for – but not the power to propel him.

Katsuta’s mission on Saturday was to recover to the top 10, which he has managed handsomely thanks to the accidents for Craig Breen, Gus Greensmith and Neuville. But on the second stage of Saturday morning, he had been without the extra boost of his hybrid unit.

Frustrated body language from Katsuta at the end of SS16 hinted that something was again amiss.

“You can guess what’s happened!” he said.

No hybrid?

“Yeah exactly, that’s it. It’s OK, I’m getting used to it. But OK we ended today, but thanks for the team, they did a big job yesterday and today, they swapped the hybrid and the gearbox they managed it in the time.

“But this hybrid thing? I don’t know, I have no words. Just funny.”


Stéphane Lefebvre leads WRC2, holding seventh overall in his Citroën C3 Rally2 with a 21.4s advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen.

Mikkelsen has adopted his usual approach of balancing risk against reward, but Lefebvre – the current leader of the Belgian Rally Championship – has proved just a little too strong for the reigning WRC2 champion.

“We could have pushed harder in the afternoon but there’s a lot of gravel so that means a lot of risk to really go for it,” said Mikkelsen.

“With our limited knowledge of the roads compared to him, it would mean big risk and if we go off here, our championship is gone. If we’re here in second, we still have a good chance. We try to balance that, but it’s not easy.”

Yohan Rossel is third in WRC2, albeit another 39s down on Mikkelsen, while Grégoire Munster completes the top 10.

Words:Luke Barry