Ott Tänak’s tireless pursuit of Teemu Suninen’s second place has finally paid dividends as the World Rally Champion moved into second place on Rally México’s final gravel stage.
Tänak still wasn’t happy with his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC, claiming “I really can’t push so I do all I can.”
But the Estonian still won the second pass of Derramadero, grabbing 9.4 seconds from Suninen to take a 6.3s advantage into the final three stages of the rally.
Suninen therefore has it all to do to recover a position he has held for the majority of the event.
“I was just trying,” Suninen said, referencing a moment where he ran deep into a corner. “It was quite a slippery stage and we went with the four hard tyres which were finished but that was our decision, and now we are behind.”
Sébastien Ogier is now just under four miles away from a sixth Rally México win, with three superspecial stages lying between the six-time World Rally Champion and victory.
Ogier was again slower than Tänak and Thierry Neuville and thus saw his lead buffer trimmed marginally. He now has 27.4s in hand over Tänak.
“You never know what can happen in this kind of rally, a puncture can always happen so there’s so many rallies so still you need keep driving and do the job,” said Ogier.
Elfyn Evans has drifted into a lonely fourth place but told stage end reporters that he has “a small issue so we need to go”. The current world championship points leader did not elaborate beyond that, having lost 14s to Neuville – who described his run as “efficient”.
Kalle Rovanperä endured a difficult Derramadero too, saying: “There is something strange in the car. I have the feeling there are some problems so I was really slow.”
The Finn lost 17s to Evans in fourth, but fortunately his fifth position is secure with sizeable gaps to those in front and behind him.
Gus Greensmith revealed he “couldn’t control the car at all” as he took to Derramedero before all of his competitors, and his pursuit of Marco Bulacia’s eighth place looks over too. The WRC 3 leader is 32.1s ahead in his Citroën C3 R5, and is likely to protect that advantage over the next three stages.
Pontus Tidemand’s advantage in WRC 2 had been eroded by Nikolay Gryazin on the previous test, but the Škoda driver still looks set to secure the category win and sixth place overall as Gryazin ran into problems.
Gryazin spun over the kicker-jump that finished the stage and explained: “There was some ditch with the water. I came quite soft but there was an impact but it was normal impact. It feels like something with the front.
“I started to loses the brake and I feel like the tyres were bald, but it was not braking at all. So I don’t know what exactly has happened. We need somehow to finish because I don’t have brakes.”
Leading positions after SS17
1 Ogier (Toyota)
2 Tänak (Hyundai) +27.4s
3 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +33.7s
4 Evans (Toyota) +1m9.2s
5 Rovanperä (Toyota) +2m14.7s
6 Tidemand (Škoda) +10m19.9s
7 Gryazin (Hyundai) +11m51.6s
8 Bulacia (Citroën) +13m20.7s
9 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +13m52.8s
10 Veiby (Hyundai) +15m18.5s