Al-Rajhi had reached the finish of Saturday’s final stage with a slender 0.1s lead over Breen but the imposition of a five-minute time penalty for a second speeding offence on a liaison section has dropped the Saudi ace down to third position heading into Sunday’s closing six stages.
Breen, in a Ford Fiesta S2000, had held a comfortable advantage starting day two but an oil leak forced a gearbox change at midday service in Cardiff and resulted in the Irishman incurring 1m20s of time penalties after a powersteering pipe leak was discovered.
“The gearbox change went perfect but when the guys put the ‘box back in they noticed one of the powersteering pipes was damaged so it all had to come back out again,” explained Breen. “They had the gearbox change done in 22 minutes, which was really impressive because it normally takes 26. We’re quite confident for tomorrow that we can maintain the gap but that’s in a perfect world and it’s not a perfect world.”
Al-Rajhi’s penalty elevates Tom Cave to second place on his first appearance in the SWRC in a factory PROTON Satria-Neo. “I took a bit of a risk this morning by taking the hard tyres, as I thought the stages would be drier than they were. I didn’t have any confidence with the grip and didn’t feel comfortable with the way the car was working on them, so I elected to back off and make sure I didn’t make any mistakes that would cut the day short. But we were able to push hard for the second run through.”
Maciej Oleksowicz holds fourth overnight with British wildcard Alastair Fisher fifth after he restarted under Rally 2 rules on Saturday morning. SWRC title chasers P-G Andersson and Hayden Paddon also returned under Rally 2 following their exits on the opening day. They are sixth and seventh starting the final day.