Toyota driver Ogier won four of the day’s six stages and went into Saturday 22.8 seconds ahead of Rovanpera, who made a good impression despite starting first.
Ogier held a 2.5 second lead after the morning loop, with the only problem being a lack of hybrids on the fourth stage. He then delivered a flawless performance of the afternoon, clean sweeping three stages.
Toyota’s Elfyn Evans held on to a relatively comfortable third place (+43.5s) after Neuville retired from fourth after a suspension failure on stage six.
Neuville’s Hyundai team-mate Esapekka Lappi finished fourth (+54.0s) despite losing time with a puncture in the morning. Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta finished the day in fifth, ahead of Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.
M-Sport’s Ott Tänak, who had his tires off the rims in the morning, moved up to seventh (+3:03) after falling back to eighth with team-mate Pierre-Louis Loubet’s tire failure.
Ogier nearly made a carbon copy of the morning’s run on the Loldia stage, which was much drier compared to the first pass.
With the hybrid problem fixed, Ogier was once again untouchable at the test, finishing 8.4 seconds faster than runner-up Lappi. The effort resulted in Ogier feeling he had made a “small mistake in the set-up” and extended his overall rally lead by 15.3 seconds over the understeer-plagued Rovanpera.
“My strategy is a little different,” said Ogier. “I tried to run cleaner and try to get the performance out of the tyres. Only the last one is very risky.”
Kalle Rovanpera, Jonne Hartunen, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Photo Credit: Red Bull Content Pool
Although Tänak was 10.2 seconds behind, he showed improvement before marking the 3rd fastest time. The Estonian said his team had managed to improve the Puma’s suspension after struggling with handling in the morning’s loop.
The stage was not without drama, however, as Tänak’s team-mate Lube stopped at 11.3km on the 19.17km stage to change wheels. The Frenchman lost 2:45.8 in the process.
“There was a big bump in the middle while braking and I broke the wheel there,” said Roubet.
Katsuta also damaged the front of his GR Yaris due to an argument with Zebra and lost time, but he maintained his overall 5th position.
Ogier continued his fierce attack on Stage 6 to claim his third stage win of the tournament. His decision to use only one spare to lighten the GR Yaris seemed inspired, but he was again pushed by Lappi, who was just 1.2 seconds slower.
Rovanpera seemed to suffer less from understeer in testing, but was still a further 2.6s behind Ogier.
However, the headline on stage was the obituary of No. 4 Neuville. The Belgian Hyundai i20N suffered its first post-compression left suspension failure at 7.9km at the start of the 13.12km test. Neuville drove the car to the access road, but did not move further.
Ogier in the lead ended a perfect afternoon by winning the 30.6km second pass through Kedon (stage 7), 2.4 seconds ahead of Rovanpera.
Thierry Neuville, Martin Widage, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally 1
Photo credit: Fabian Dufour / Hyundai Motorsport
“Aside from the hybrid issue this morning, it was a perfect day so I’m happy,” said Ogier.
Evans was lucky not to lose time by crashing into a bush, but Katsuta was lucky to hit a tree branch and cracked the windshield of his GR Yaris, followed by a puncture in the right front. .
Tänak beat Ogier by 21.3 seconds in testing and admitted he could not go any faster on the stage. M-Sport team-mate Roubaix was forced to make another wheel change, and after spending more time it was even worse.
The field will tackle six more stages on Saturday and is expected to be the toughest day of the rally.
https://www.autosport.com/wrc/news/wrc-safari-rally-ogier-pulls-clear-of-rovanpera-neuville-retires/10486718/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-ALL&utm_term=News&utm_content=uk Ogier pulls away Rovanpera, Neuville retires