Reigning WRC champion Sebastien Ogier will take a 44.5 second lead into the final day of the Tour de Corse, having led the event since the very first stage.
After winning three of the four stages on Friday, Ogier has not won a single stage today, but has managed to stretch his lead from the 33.6 second margin he had this morning
Behind the Frenchman, there has been an almighty scrap for the podium places. Title rival Thierry Neuville admitted last night that his focus was to hold on to his second place, which was under threat from Kris Meeke and Ott Tanak.
The Belgian was joint second place to Meeke going into the last stage of the day, with Tanak in fourth. The Estonian could have been ahead of both, had he not lost time on SS5 thanks to a handbrake issue.
However, Meeke came unstuck in the Novella stage for the third year running. Just under four miles into Saturday’s last stage, he went off the road and found himself among the trees.
That does not mean that Neuville holds onto second place, though, as Tanak now sits 0.1s in front of him, after setting the benchmark on SS10.
Also taking part in the podium fight was Esapekka Lappi. The Finn was among the top three quickest drivers on every stage in the morning loop. He then won SS8 and finished second on SS9, before finishing a joint fastest with Tanak on SS10.
“I can be happy with today”, he beamed after the final stage, now up to fourth place, 10 seconds behind Neuville.
The other WRC crews, though, have failed to impress. Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans, in fifth and sixth respectively, both lacked for pace, the Spaniard’s Hyundai having too much understeer for him to challenge team-mate Neuville.
The third Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen was even further behind, struggling with the road conditions as well as consistent understeer. However, the Norwegian sits in seventh place, because as well as Meeke, both Jari-Matti Latvala and Bryan Bouffier have retired.
Neither Latvala nor Bouffier were doing well before their days both came to an end on the second running of the Cagnano – Pino – Canari stage, the first of the afternoon. Latvala was running eighth, but had made changes to his setup before SS7 and said that he “felt more confident” under braking.
That came to an end in the afternoon, when he collided with a tree on SS8. He made it to the end of the stage, but multiple minutes down, and with a snapped roll cage which forced his retirement..
Bouffier, meanwhile, was, brought to a stop thanks to an engine issue on his M-Sport Fiesta, although he was already two minutes behind the lead and last of the WRC runners in 10th.
After crashing yesterday, Sebastien Loeb rejoined today under Rally2 rules. Although the nine-time champion is 20 minutes down, he has proved his pace by winning two stages.
The retirements mean that WRC2 leader Jan Kopecky is in an overall eighth, with Fabio Andolfi ahead of Kopecky’s Skoda team-mate Ole-Christian Veiby. Veiby was second in the category until SS10, where he developed a transmission problem.