SS2/3: Tänak storms clear

Ott Tänak won Friday morning’s opening two speed tests to charge into the lead of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.

Stage info: SS2/3

SS2: Clocaenog 1, 7.67km
Clocaenog is a great taster of things to come – fast and smooth and a test drivers will love. It mixes the start and finish sections from when it was last used in 2016, with roads driven in 2017’s shakedown. It’s full of fast corners initially before a short section on narrower tracks. Just before the midpoint it returns to the fast stuff, with plenty of kinks and dips en route to the finish.

SS3: Brenig 1, 29.13km
The spectacular roads around Llyn Brenig provide picture postcard scenery. The stage skirts the lake for the first few kilometres, before taking in new tracks and rejoining the finale of 2017’s Power Stage. It continues on, crossing the public road into last year’s Alwen test for the final 10.50km. There are 4.12km of asphalt, meaning many surface and grip changes, while plenty of open sections ensure it’s hard to read the route. It’s high speed in places, with frequent square junctions linking the straights.

The north Wales forest roads were muddy and slippery, but Tänak maintained the dominant form which has netted a hat-trick of rally victories to win the short Clocaenog special stage and demote overnight leader Esapekka Lappi.

Tänak edged 2017 rally winner Elfyn Evans by 0.3sec and then defeated the Welshman by 3.0sec in the next Brenig test, the longest of the rally, to lead by 5.4sec in his Toyota Yaris.

“I can say the feeling wasn’t great but I guess it’s because the conditions are so tricky. They’re changing all the time,” said the Estonian, whose Yaris was fitted with Michelin’s soft compound tyres.

Evans was relaxed and relieved in equal measure at the end of Brenig. “We had a puncture alarm go off early on and there was a lot of communication. Thankfully it was just a false alarm,” he explained.

Ford Fiesta team-mate Sébastien Ogier was third, a further 1.9sec back. The Frenchman was uncomfortable in the mud but was almost seven seconds ahead of the similar car of Teemu Suninen, who missed a junction in Clocaenog.

Craig Breen and championship leader Thierry Neuville were clustered together in fifth and sixth, just behind the Finn, but Neuville was far from happy with his start.

“I struggled with understeer. The car isn’t doing what I want, I hit the chicane and I almost had to go backwards a bit,” said the Hyundai i20 pilot.

Jari-Matti Latvala also reported understeer in his Yaris while team-mate Lappi fell back with a half spin in Clocaenog and lacked confidence in Brenig.

Hayden Paddon lost a few seconds after a small off in his i20 and team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was at a loss to understand the handling of his car.

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