Driving a Ford Fiesta S2000, Al-Attiyah had increased his margin to more than 20s at the midday service halt in Salou. But an off-road moment on stage 10 damaged his car’s gearbox to the extent his lead over Red Bull Skoda driver Juho Hanninen has been slashed to less than a second.
“It was a very good morning because we won all the stages and progressed a lot on Tarmac,” said Al-Attiyah. “When we went off we damaged the oil cooler of the gearbox and we were actually lucky to come back onto the road. The car was not good after that and the gearbox temperature was quite high.”
Al-Attiyah probably would have lost the lead altogether had Hanninen not been driving with the SWRC title in mind. The Finn just needs to maintain his position to clinch the crown following archrival Ott Tanak’s day one exit.
“I just need to come to the finish so it’s better not to think about Nasser,” said Hanninen. “I need to find a good rhythm because there is still a long way to go.”
Czech Martin Prokop is third but bemoaned a poor set-up on his Fiesta and problems with his pace notes. He is almost 50 seconds behind Hanninen.
Irish youngster Craig Breen started day two firmly in contention for a podium finish but a broken right-rear driveshaft seven kilometres into Saturday’s opening 45.97-kilometre El Priorat test dropped his car onto two-wheel drive and cost him prescious time. But with Hermann Gassner Jr more than two minutes behind, Breen’s tenure of fourth looks to be secure heading into day three, despite the German setting the SWRC pace on stage 11.
After retiring on the road section heading back to final service on Friday with a broken alternator, Bernardo Sousa suffered more misfortune when his car’s engine broke on the penultimate test.
Tanak and Karl Kruuda restarted on day two following their retirements on Friday. Both set competitive times during the day with Tanak recording two fastest stage times in his Fiesta.
Albert Llovera retired his Abarth Grande Punto before leaving morning service due to a brake issue.