Mathieu Arzeno and Thierry Neuville will be separated by a mere 1.8 seconds when they resume their battle victory in the Junior World Rally Championship section of Rally Bulgaria on Saturday.
The Citroen C2 Super 1600 drivers have been closely matched throughout the opening day of the Tarmac rally. Arzeno took the honours on the opening special stage before Neuville hit back with the fastest time on the next three stages.
At the final service halt in Dolna Banya, Arzeno said: “It’s the first time that I have led a rally in a Super 1600 car so it is not too bad but tomorrow I know I will have to push a lot harder because the gap to Thierry is not so much.”
Hans Weijs is third overall in a similar Citroen, despite being held back by a brake problem in the afternoon. However, the Dutch driver said he was confident his mechanics could rectify the problem ahead of Saturday’s six stages.
Yeray Lemes, who hails from the Canary Islands reported the engine in his Renault Clio S1600 was overheating after the first stage but he holds fourth overall, 20.4s behind Weijs.
Local hero Todor Slavov is fifth in class overnight. The Bulgarian Clio R3 driver complained of a lack of brakes on Friday’s opening test.
With joint championship leader Aaron Burkart not nominating Rally Bulgaria as one of his scoring rounds, Dutchman Kevin Abbring started the event intent on capitalising on the Germany’s absence. However, he languishes in sixth overnight after complaining the set-up of his Clio R3 wasn’t too his liking in the morning, when he lost a chunk of time to his class rivals.
Karl Kruuda lost time with a spin on the opening stage in his Suzuki Swift S1600 but holds eighth in the young-driver section overnight. He is one position behind Clio R3 pilot Alessandro Broccoli, who said he wasn’t satisfied with his pacenotes, with Spaniard Egoi Valdes Lopez ninth in another Clio.
Briton Harry Hunt completes the Junior runners in his Ford Fiesta R2 in 10th place after being forced to stop to change a punctured front-left tyre on stage two, which was caused when he struck a rock. He also reported a loss of brakes.