Rally News

Ogier responds to Tanak challenge to lead into final day

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

The eight-time world champion claimed four of the day’s nine stages, including two of the afternoon tests, to fend off a charging Tanak.

Ogier headed to service with a 11.9s lead over Tanak having started the day one second behind Toyota team-mate Kalle Rovanpera, who rolled out of the lead on the morning’s stage 11. Tanak’s strong run was rewarded by 15 provisional championship points – three fewer than Ogier under the new system.

Championship leader Thierry Neuville held on to third [+1m11.4s] for Hyundai to pick up 13 valuable championship points, ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo [+1m25.6s] who collected 10 points.

M-Sport Ford’s Adrien Fourmaux enjoyed a strong run to put himself firmly in the fight for fourth [+1m32.9s] and picked up eight points, while title contender Elfyn Evans ended the day a distant sixth [+3m23.8s], pocketing six points.

Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta retired from third on Saturday morning with damaged suspension. A mechanical issue pushed M-Sport’s Gregoire Munster outside of the top 10.

Tanak started Saturday afternoon on the front foot as the head-to-head with Ogier developed into an intense fight for the rally lead.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

The second pass through the now rutted Felgueiras, 8.81km test seemed to suit Tanak as the Hyundai driver claimed a second stage win, following his stage 12 success. Tanak, who described the road conditions as “really perfect”, managed to take 3.2s out of Ogier’s lead to reduce the 13.6s deficit to 10.4s. Ogier hinted that he was not at his maximum.

Neuville came the closest to beating his team-mate Tanak on the test after falling 2.4s shy. The Belgian, now driving a repaired i20N after incurring front end damage in the morning, moved 4.2s clear of the third Hyundai of Sordo in the battle for third.

There was however drama in the fight for the WRC2 as the lead changed hands once again. Class leader Gus Greensmith drifted offline at a slow right hander, resulting in his Skoda becoming beached in the sandy bank. The incident handed the class lead to Ireland’s Josh McErlean.

Stage 15, Montim, witnessed Tanak step up his pursuit of Ogier by posting another stage-winning time, although the Estonian felt effort wasn’t anything “special”. Tanak clawed 2.6s back from Ogier from a committed run through the test that caught out Rovanpera and Oliver…

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