Tanak extends his lead as title race reaches fever pitch on Rally GB

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Estonian ace Ott Tänak extended his lead of Wales Rally GB to 11 seconds on the toughest leg of the event.

The Toyota Yaris WRC driver battled through the day’s classic fast and flowing stages in the forests of mid-Wales to head into the final leg with his fellow FIA World Rally Championship title protagonists in hot pursuit.

Tänak adapted well to the inclement conditions to ensure the fight for the lead would swing in his favour, doubling his slender overnight advantage over title rival Thierry Neuville. The hard-charging Hyundai i20 WRC driver threw his hat into the ring from the opening stage of the day, first overhauling Toyota driver Kris Meeke and then six-time FIA World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier.

The Citroën C3 WRC driver admitted he was ‘right on the limit’ and ‘couldn’t do any more’ as he dropped from the second spot he held overnight, whilst in contrast, Neuville bolstered his chances of remaining in the three-way battle for the WRC title.

With the trio of title adversaries now locked in a titanic battle in the podium positions, tomorrow’s finale is likely to play a major role in the destination of this year’s WRC crown.

Kris Meeke, who led for virtually all of Friday, started 3.6sec off the lead but could not reproduce the same speed on faster and wider roads in his Yaris. He ended 26.5sec behind team-mate Tänak, but in a vital points-paying position for Toyota’s manufacturers’ title challenge.

Andreas Mikkelsen won a stage en route to retaining fifth in his i20. The Norwegian came under fierce pressure from Elfyn Evans, who won all three morning stages in his Ford Fiesta. The Welshman was less dominant this afternoon but was only 4.5sec adrift tonight.

Team-mate Teemu Suninen was more than two minutes further back after losing time when he crashed off the road and punctured a tyre. Losing his Fiesta’s front splitter later cost aerodynamic downforce and more time.

Pontus Tidemand, Craig Breen and FIA WRC 2 Pro leader Kalle Rovanperä completed the leaderboard.

In the FIA WRC 2 class, rally legend Petter Solberg leads the field on his farewell tour, ahead of Frenchmen Pierre-Louis Loubet – only 12.5 seconds behind - and Adrien Fourmaux.

Jan Solans is the leader of FIA Junior WRC, over three minutes ahead of his closest rival Kristensson, who sustained a puncture. The Spaniard was never headed during Saturday’s challenging stages in Britain and is now within reach of the championship’s title.

Breen dropped five minutes after a spectacular roll this morning, the Irishman blaming an over optimistic pace note. He struggled through the rest of the day with a cracked windscreen hampering visibility.

Sunday’s finale returns to north Wales. Two loops of two forest stages sandwich an asphalt test around the rocky Great Orme headland on the edge of host town Llandudno. It totals 38.42km and the final Power Stage offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.

2019 Wales Rally GB - Unofficial Results after Section 6:

Pos. Driver/Co-Driver Car Team

Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST)                         

Toyota Yaris WRC 2hr 42min 2.7sec
2 Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2hr 42min 13.7sec
3 Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Citroën C3 WRC 2hr 42min 20.0sec
4 Kris Meeke (GBR) / Sebastian Marshall (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC 2hr 42min 29.2sec
5 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) / Anders Jaeger-Amland (NOR) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2hr 42min 49.6sec
6 Elfyn Evans (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR) Ford Fiesta WRC 2hr 42min 54.1sec
7 Teemu Suninen (FIN) / Marko Salminen (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 2hr 45min 10.6sec
8 Pontus Tidemand (SWE) / Ola Floene (NOR) Ford Fiesta WRC 2hr 47min 02.3sec
9 Craig Breen (IRL) / Paul Nagle (IRL) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 2hr 51min 18.7sec
10 Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Škoda Fabia R5 Evo 2hr 51min 32.9sec