Toyota driver Ott Tanak takes a 44-second lead over the battling Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala into Rally Germany’s final day, while Sebastien Ogier is flying on a comeback drive.
World Rally champion Ogier was Tanak’s nearest rival until he had to stop to change a damaged wheel on the afternoon running of the Panzerplatte stage.
That cost him around 1m40s and dropped him from second to ninth.
Ogier immediately took eighth from M-Sport Ford team-mate Teemu Suninen by winning the following Freisen stage.
He then gained another place when sixth-placed Craig Breen ran wide and broke his Citroen’s rear suspension on the day’s closer Romerstrasse.
Ogier couldn’t quite do enough to overcome Andreas Mikkelsen for sixth on that stage, but will start Sunday just half a second behind the struggling Hyundai driver.
While Tanak was able to back off once Ogier had been delayed, the battle for second has got ever more tense.
Sordo was quickest on both the short and long versions of Panzerplatte and reached second despite starting the morning only sixth.
Latvala came back at him when the route left the military ranges for the next two stages, and closed to within 0.8s of the Hyundai by the end of the day.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville was able to switch back to his preferred differential when Hyundai deduced that the gearbox removed as a precaution following a Friday oil leak was not damaged.
But he couldn’t keep pace with Sordo and Latvala, suggesting first that his set-up was too stiff and then that, with Ogier delayed, the dilemma of whether to settle for the points he already had or push to maximise his gain by charging for second was playing on his mind.
Breen managed to reach the end of Romerstrasse after his incident, and should be able to nurse his car to service and continue in 10th place behind Citroen team-mate Mads Ostberg.
Prior to going off, Breen had been inching towards Esapekka Lappi for fifth. Pushing to keep the Citroen at bay, Lappi was second-quickest on the day’s last two stages and is now just 6.3s behind Neuville for fourth.
Leading positions after SS15
|1||Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||2h23m27.1s|
|2||Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||43.7s|
|3||Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||44.5s|
|4||Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||52.5s|
|5||Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||58.8s|
|6||Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager||Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT||Hyundai||1m50.7s|
|7||Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||1m51.2s|
|8||Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula||M-Sport World Rally Team||Ford||1m57.0s|
|9||Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||2m20.4s|
|10||Craig Breen, S.Martin||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||2m34.4s|