SS10: Tänak under pressure
Ott Tänak’s Vodafone Rally de Portugal lead came under attack from Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala on Saturday morning.
Stage info: SS10
Amarante 1, 37.60km
The rally’s longest stage. It’s wide, fast and flowing but there are plenty of corners among trees which are close to the road. The surface is smooth with a fine layer of gravel on top, but there are also short stretches of asphalt and cobbles. The middle section runs down one side of a valley before returning up the other side and offers great viewing for fans. Organisers have built small banks in places to prevent cutting.
Latvala turned up the heat in the sandy Amarante speed test, the longest of the rally, to set a second fastest time following victory in the previous Cabeceiras de Basto stage. His win double slashed Tänak’s overnight 17.3sec lead to 5.1sec.
The brake problems which hindered Tänak in the opening test were finally resolved before Amarante, but the Estonian was shocked when he saw his colleague’s time.
Latvala gambled with a mix of Michelin’s medium and hard compound tyres for his Yaris. In contrast, Tänak opted for medium rubber all round.
“I think we got it right. It was good thinking with the engineers and the tyre guys, the strategy was good. We also made some set-up changes with the car and it was working very well,” said Latvala.
Tänak was relaxed about his colleague’s pace. “If we can get the car finally fixed in service, I don’t see any problems. It should be OK this afternoon. After 4km of the opening stage we had no brakes and couldn’t fix them until before the last one.
"We were focused on getting the car to the finish. Now we need to get back into our normal rhythm,” he said.
Kris Meeke preserved Toyota’s hold on the top three places. He won the opening Vieira do Minho stage, but could not maintain that pace in Amarante, where he suffered a huge crash 12 months ago that ended his tenure at Citroën Racing. He fell 13.3sec behind Latvala.
The other big battle was between championship leader Sébastien Ogier, in a Citroën C3, and title rival Thierry Neuville for fourth. Neuville’s Hyundai Motorsport team played a double dose of tactics in a bid to help the Belgian.
With Dani Sordo and Sébastien Loeb out of the running for a top place after fuel pressure problems yesterday, Hyundai ordered them to deliberately incur time penalties by dropping down the start order to slot in after Ogier and ahead of Neuville.
It meant two cars fewer in front of Ogier to sweep loose gravel from the road and provide a cleaner and faster line. Having initially dropped behind Ogier this morning, Neuville regained fourth in Amarante by 1.9sec, despite the extra weight of a second spare wheel.
Esapekka Lappi gained another place in his C3, moving ahead of Teemu Suninen’s Ford Fiesta by 9.1sec into sixth.
Gus Greensmith stalled at the start of Amarante and overshot a hairpin near the finish and held eighth, ahead of a recovering Elfyn Evans and WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä.
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