SS9/SS10/SS11: Ogier at ease in Welsh fog
Neuville escapes brush with bank
SS12: Pantperthog 2, 9.64km
It was back in 1997 when Pantperthog last featured. The first part is twisty and technical before becoming faster, but still littered with corners. Thick tree cover means the opening section is wet and muddy with logs lining the roadside. The final 3km make this stage such a great challenge – fast downhill into a huge braking zone for a junction left, with a large bank waiting to trap the unwary on the outside.
SS13: Dyfi 2, 21.12km
Dyfi is driven in the opposite direction to last year. It is narrow from the start but there is hardly a place where drivers need to hit the brakes in the first 1.4km. From here on it rises and falls on a good surface and although the speed eases a little, it remains a super-quick test.
SS14: Gartheiniog 2, 11.34km
One of the few stages that is unchanged from 2015. Plenty of open sections mean visibility is good and drivers have lots of opportunities to attack hard. The surface is soft, especially near the start, and it is likely to become rutted quite quickly.
The Estonian dominated the second pass through Pantperthog, Dyfi and Gartheiniog in his Ford Fiesta RS to reclaim 11.5sec from the Frenchman. He reduced the gap between the pair to 24.8sec with two speed tests remaining in the penultimate leg.
Although the fog had subsided, the gravel forest tracks remained greasy but Tänak was enjoying them. “This kind of polished road is definitely good news for our tyres. They are working well in these conditions so I pushed hard,” he said.
Ogier insisted there was no easing off in his Volkswagen Polo R. “I’m still pushing as much as I can. We’re doing everything we can to try to keep the gap because we know tomorrow it will be hard to keep Ott behind us,” he said.
Thierry Neuville claimed top three times in all three tests to retain third in his Hyundai i20, 14.4sec ahead of team-mate Hayden Paddon. The New Zealander made changes to his i20’s set-up and while he felt more comfortable, they made no improvement to the traction.
With no more spare tyres available, Kris Meeke steered a cautious path through the stages in his Citroën DS 3. The Ulsterman was more than a minute ahead of Dani Sordo, with Mads Østberg continuing to fend off Jari-Matti Latvala in seventh.
Østberg’s co-driver, Ola Fløene, was nursing a bizarre injury. The Norwegian was sporting a bite mark on his hand and believes he may have been the victim of a snake!
Stéphane Lefebvre and Eric Camilli completed the leaderboard.