WRC - Tänak leads GB, Evans on a charge | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile
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WRC - Tänak leads GB, Evans on a charge

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2019 Wales Rally GB - Saturday morning

2019 Wales Rally GB - O. Tänak / M. Järveoja

Toyota’s Ott Tänak slightly extended his overall lead over the course of Saturday morning’s three stages on Wales Rally GB, but the margins between the top contenders remain extremely tight.

Seven stages south of the Llandudno Service Park are on the menu for Saturday in mid-Wales, with no service in between them, meaning that the drivers have to balance pace with consistency.

Tänak managed to hold the top spot of the leaderboard, which he snatched in yesterday’s final stage, but the Estonian is just seven seconds over Citroën’s Sebastien Ogier.

His team-mate Kris Meeke, who had led for most of the opening day, struggled on Saturday morning, slipping away from the podium battle into fourth and reporting a lack of confidence in his Yaris WRC on these high-speed stages, which feature variable grip and are quite different in character from those of yesterday.

Ogier maintains the runner-up spot, despite suffering a big impact and a moment in the middle of the Sweet Lamb stage. Just like for Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, who moved up to third thid morning – only a couple of seconds behind the Frenchman – a win this weekend is crucial to keep his title hopes alive.

The biggest star of Saturday morning though was M-Sport’s Elfyn Evans on his home soil, who won each of the three stages to move up to sixth overall, closing in to the Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen in fifth.

Mikkelsen confessed he couldn’t give more, with only a fragile five-second buffer over the flying Welshman. Evans leads his two team mates Teemu Suninen, who lost a minute with a puncture after sliding wide, and Pontus Tidemand, in seventh and eight places respectively.

There was drama for Hyundai’s Craig Breen, who rolled in SS12 Myherin. But the Irishman is still in the battle in ninth place, despite a lot of damage to the car and a time loss of around five minutes. Breen reported that mechanically, the car did not feel too bad but he struggled for visibility through the cracked windscreen.

Kalle Rovänpera came back to the lead a built a healthy advantage in the WRC2 Pro category in his Škoda Fabia R5, following a puncture sustained by his team-mate Jan Kopecky on SS12.

Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet heads the FIA WRC 2 class, ahead of Petter Solberg on a his farewell tour and fellow compatriot Adrian Fourmaux.

Jan Solans continues to lead the FIA Junior WRC order, which will be decided on the last round here in Wales. His closest rival and title contender Tom Kristensson lost time after changing a wheel.

Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala did not start today due to roll cage damage following his accident yesterday, while WRC 2 Pro driver Gus Greensmith retired for the day this morning after damaging the suspension on his Ford Fiesta.