Ott Tänak’s bid for a fourth consecutive WRC victory came to a dramatic end in Saturday afternoon’s Sweet Lamb Hafren speed test when he stopped with mechanical problems.
Stage info: SS15/16
SS15: Myherin 2, 20.28km
A Rally GB classic kicks off Super Saturday’s afternoon and it is the only stage identical to 2017. It is fast and smooth from the start with enticing corners early on. Two new sections introduced in the second half last year are retained, and the stage ends with a series of fast open bends overlooking a valley before a downhill finale to the finish. If there is early morning fog around,it will require bravery and confidence to get the best out of it.
SS16: Sweet Lamb Hafren 2, 19.95km
Sweet Lamb and Hafren are amalgamated into one test for 2018. Sweet Lamb is a spectator magnet as fans pack the hillsides around a bowl for uninterrupted views across almost 2km of the stage. It’s downhill from the start, via a double hairpin, into the arena. Three jumps and a water splash provide great entertainment before the road climbs away over the moors into Hafren Forest. The tree-lined roads are smooth, fast and flowing, with a spectacular downhill finale to the finish amid stunning mountain views.
His demise promoted world champion Sébastien Ogier into the lead of this 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship and provided yet another twist in the enthralling three-way fight for the title.
Tänak was 41.0sec clear of title rival Ogier in his Toyota Yaris, and on course to take the championship lead from Thierry Neuville, when he stopped 3.7km into the 19.95km test, steering his car away from the stage onto an access road.
The chain of events remains uncertain but Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen said: “They don’t know exactly what happened. I think he first lost the sump guard and then broke the radiator and the water pressure is gone. It is a big disappointment.”
Ogier, driving a Ford Fiesta, led a quartet of drivers battling for victory who were covered by less than 15sec. He won the afternoon’s opening Myherin test and finished second in Sweet Lamb Hafren to lead Jari-Matti Latvala’s Yaris by 5.5sec.
Esapekka Lappi was a further 5.3sec back in third in another Yaris, with Craig Breen firmly in contention in fourth in a Citroën C3, 14.4sec behind Ogier.
Conditions were much driver than predicted for the repeat pass through the two stages. Most drivers had opted for Michelin’s soft compound rubber in expectation of wetter conditions and tyre management was key with two further afternoon stages remaining.
Andreas Mikkelsen topped the times in Sweet Lamb Hafren and the Hyundai i20 driver moved ahead of team-mate Hayden Paddon into sixth, with Neuville eighth.