Fog and greasy gravel roads greeted drivers for Saturday’s second leg of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
Stage info: SS9-SS11
SS9: Pantperthog 1, 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.
SS10: Dyfi 1, 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.
SS11: Gartheiniog 1, 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.
Three quickfire speed tests were on the menu and leader Sébastien Ogier eased through them with no problems in his Volkswagen Polo R. He won the middle stage in Dyfi to all but maintain his overnight advantage at 36.3sec over Ott Tänak.
“I did a good loop and pushed as hard as I could,” he said after the finish of Gartheiniog. “I lost some time in this stage with a flare which distracted me. The smoke was like a wall in the road and I couldn’t see anything in the corner. I had to brake a lot.”
Tänak won the opener in Pantperthog and the Estonian summed up the tricky conditions he faced in his pursuit of Ogier. “It was very foggy. Yesterday we lost a lot of time to Seb in the fog so I tried hard. Maybe I was a bit chicken in the fast stuff!” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot.
Thierry Neuville retained third in his Hyundai i20, extending his advantage over team-mate Hayden Paddon to 7.3sec. The Belgian had a scare when he hit a Dyfi bank but recovered to win Gartheiniog.
Paddon eased clear of Kris Meeke’s Citroën DS 3 in fifth but the Kiwi was frustrated with his driving.
“These conditions don’t suit my style of driving. I can’t attack and I’m losing time everywhere. I like to use a lot of the road but in conditions like this you have to stay in the line because out of the line there’s a lot of mud. I have to drive the car straighter and it’s not my natural way,” he explained.
Meeke had two slow punctures and has used all six of his soft compound Michelin tyres. He has five more stages to complete before the end of the day with no opportunity to take onboard additional rubber.
Sixth-placed Dani Sordo was unhappy with his i20’s handling while Mads Østberg, 37.5sec behind, lost time with a stall in Pantperthog. The Norwegian incurred a 10sec penalty after leaving the Deeside service late this morning when mechanics had to make an unplanned suspension change.