Sébastien Ogier started off the Saturday afternoon loop of the Ypres Rally with his first stage win of the weekend on the lengthy Hollebeke test.
The retirements of Pierre-Louis Loubet and Takamoto Katsuta in the morning have put Ogier second on the road through Saturday’s stages, and so far he has been unhappy with how much the dust on the surface of the road has cost him time.
But with the support classes, including many national class cars, sweeping the stages, it meant going into the second run there was an improvement in conditions for the World Rally Car crews.
Ogier made the most of it, as he set the pace by 0.8 seconds.
“Now the road conditions are a bit better, the grip is a bit better, so I had a clean stage,” said Ogier. “Let’s see what it makes.”
His Toyota team-mates Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanperä were next onto the stage after him, and for the first time on Saturday he was faster than both. They’re now embroiled in a three-way battle for third, with 11.6 seconds between Evans and Ogier, and with Rovanperä sat between them and 5.8s behind Evans.
According to Evans, who was second fastest on the stage, team principal Jari-Matti Latvala will allow the Toyota drivers to fight for position while still trying to score as many manufacturer points for Toyota as they can.
Craig Breen was third fastest for Hyundai, and by going through Hollebeke 1.8s quicker than Thierry Neuville he cut his deficit to his rally-leading team-mate back to five seconds.
“It’s tricky,” said Breen at the end of the stage. “Just trying not to make any mistakes, trying to keep the car on the road is a difficult task in its own right.”
Neuville didn’t seem concerned about his time loss to Breen, and said his focus was his gap to Evans in third as Hyundai is believed to be applying team orders with its top two cars.
“[It was a] good stage for me, good clean run,” said Neuville. “I really enjoy it because I don’t need to take any risks, and I have a good rhythm, good speed, the handling is nice.”
Ott Tänak is sixth overall in the third factory Hyundai, almost three minutes off the lead now, while seventh place is being disputed by the top two in the WRC3 class: Yohan Rossel and Sebastien Bedoret.
The WRC2 class, currently led by Oliver Solberg in the new Hyundai i20 N Rally2, lost two of its cars before SS13 even began.
Nikolay Gryazin picked up the wrong map and therefore headed to a different stage, and had to drive back to service as a result, while M-Sport Ford’s Teemu Suninen didn’t even depart service and is believed to be out of the rest of the afternoon loop.
After eventually finding the correct stage, Gryazin ended up being the fastest Rally2 car through by 3.6s in his Volkswagen Polo GTI. Solberg was 43s slower, and has dropped from 12th to 14th in the overall classification.
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +13m23.7s
2 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +0.8s
3 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +1.9s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.7s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +4.5s
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +5.6s
Leading positions after SS13
1 Neuville/Wydaeghe 1h48m59.2s
2 Breen/Nagle +5s
3 Evans/Martin +36.3s
4 Rovanperä/Halttunen +42.1s
5 Ogier/Ingrassia +47.9s
6 Tänak/Järveoja +3m46s
7 Sebastien Bedoret/Francois Gilbert (Škoda) +9m12.2s
8 Yohan Rossel/Alexandre Coria (Citroën) +9m13.5s
9 Pieter Jan Michiel Cracco/Jaspen Vermeulen (Škoda) +9m27.7s
10 Fabien Kreim/Frank Christian (Volkswagen) +10m06.1s