Tanak has been in control since the third stage on Friday in his MM Motorsport Ford Fiesta S2000. Despite reporting a minor engine glitch on Saturday afternoon, the Estonian is just six stages away from claiming his third SWRC victory of 2011 with a comfortable lead of 2m37.7s.
“I’ve been trying to make no mistakes and get to the finish but I’ve also tried to be reasonably fast at the same time,” said Tanak. “It’s going to be a good battle now in the championship but we need to be at the finish.”
If Tanak does remain in front then it will dramatically boost his chances of winning the SWRC crown after title leader Juho Hanninen went out on stage 12.
“It was a long left [corner] that tightens after two kilometres, I braked too late and went wide into a ditch,” said the Red Bull Skoda driver. “There were a lot of spectators there to help me but there was no point because we could see that the car was damaged.”
Although Hanninen will restart on Sunday morning under SupeRally regulations, he will face a tall order to break into the top four. “It will be close now for the final round, for sure I need to win in Spain to be the champion,” said Hanninen.
Norwegian Eyvind Brynildsen, who is second overnight, reported “driving safely” in his PS Engineering Fabia as he bids to score championship points for only the third time in 2011 following a luckless campaign.
Czech Martin Prokop still has an outside chance of becoming SWRC champion in his Fiesta but needs to get ahead of Brynildsen. “It was not such a good morning because we chose soft tyres as we didn’t expect the roads to be so clean and dry,” he said. “It’s been bad today but we try tomorrow.”
Bernardo Sousa lost time on Saturday morning with a puncture. The Portuguese Fiesta pilot is the last of the four SWRC runners to have completed the second day of the event.
French wildcard entrant Julien Maurin hit trouble on stage 13 but is due to restart under SupeRally rules on Sunday. Unfortunately there will be no restart for Hermann Gassner Jr after a heavy crash on stage nine left his co-driver Kathi Wuestenhagen requiring a hospital visit. The German pair had stopped for more than 20 minutes to fix a sensor problem earlier in the stage. After continuing making repairs they were able to continue only to crash into a tree.
A broken throttle cable bracket forced Nasser Al-Attiyah’s retirement on stage 10.