SS3: Hat-trick for Ogier
Latvala and Neuville retire after crashing
Hafren 2, 32.14km
In at the deep end – the longest stage of the rally and a GB classic kicks off the action! The surface is hard but slimy and it’s fast, flowing and smooth throughout. A drainage ditch lines much of the test which drivers can use to ‘hook’ their cars into corners, while big logs have been positioned on the inside of some bends to prevent drivers cutting.
Meeke was 5.2sec quicker than Ogier in the second pass through Hafren in his DS 3 to bring the deficit down to 7.7sec with two stages remaining in today’s opening leg.
The Ulsterman is focused on helping Citroën defeat Hyundai in their fight for second in the manufacturers’ championship, and emphasised that beating Ogier was not his primary aim this weekend.
“He’s not the target to be honest,” said Meeke. “I had a good run and seemed able to cope with the surface here better than I did last year.”
Ogier was unflustered at having his lead almost halved. “I took it a bit carefully. I could push more in some areas and it’s not a drama if we lose a couple of seconds here,” he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Østberg were third and fourth to retain the same places on the leaderboard, ahead of Dani Sordo who regained fifth from Elfyn Evans.
Evans plunged to ninth after losing a minute with a rear right puncture in his Ford Fiesta RS. “I have no idea what happened. We heard a strange rubbing noise and the tyre started to delaminate. We drove a long way like that,” said the Welshman.
Team-mate Ott Tänak enjoyed better fortunes, climbing ahead of Hayden Paddon into sixth after the Kiwi spun and stalled the engine of his Hyundai i20.