Pontus Tidemand edged team-mate Jan Kopecky to hold a slender lead in WRC 2 at RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España on Friday night.
The Swede headed his Skoda Motorsport colleague by 3.0sec after overhauling the Czech in the last of six muddy, rain-soaked speed tests in the hills above the Costa Daurada, south of Barcelona.
Tidemand became the third leader in the WRC’s principal support category. Teemu Suninen headed the standings initially, building a 12sec advantage before turbo problems stopped his Skoda Fabia R5.
Kopecký took over at the top in a similar car until fastest time in the final two special stages enabled Tidemand to move ahead. The Swede admitted he would have to be on better form tomorrow to fend off Kopecký when the rally switches to asphalt.
“It was a tricky day, conditions were awful and it would have been easy to make a mistake,” he said. “It wasn’t 100 per cent perfect. I wasn’t driving so well and had a small problem with the car. I really need to wake up on the right side of things tomorrow because Jan is really quick on asphalt.”
Suninen’s early departure was a major disappointment for the Finn, who needed a good result to strengthen his title hopes.
Julien Maurin won one stage en route to third in another Fabia R5. The Frenchman was 1min 20.6sec behind Kopecký and a similar margin ahead of Marius Aasen’s Ford Fiesta R5. Bernhard Ten Brinke and Frigyes Turan completed the top six.
Turan was slowed by a loose turbo pipe in his Fiesta R5 but the tough conditions took a heavier toll on other contenders.
Ole Christian Veiby retired with a broken front right steering arm in SS4, the same test accounting for Sander Parn and Ghislain de Mevius. Germany’s Armin Kremer vacated fourth when he stopped on the liaison section before the final stage.