Mercurial Monte starlet Rovanperä moved up the order once more, finding himself in 3rd after Tänak’s misfortune. Despite being 1min 08.3sec adrift of Ogier, he now helped to form a Toyota 1-2-3.
His job was made easier by an off for Thierry Neuville. The Hyundai i20 overshot at a corner as the Belgian lost 20sec to Rovanperä.
“It was a difficult stage,” he said. “We had to find a rhythm and it didn’t work for very long.”
Sordo also went off, metres from the end, but showed fortitude to square off a corner, ploughing through a field and still making the stage finish in one piece. He still managed to take 3rd on SS9 and maintain his 6th position.
Gus Greensmith recovered a confidence which he seemed to have left in the service park on Thursday and Friday, impressively setting 5th fastest, but remained 10th overall.
His main rival Takamoto Katsuda lost 39.sec to Greensmith but stayed in 8th.
SS10 Saint-Clement – Freissinières
‘Polishing’ was the theme of SS10. Pierre-Louis Loubet was the star of the stage early on, but it was his team-mate Neuville who truly seized the initiative. Grip levels significantly reduced for competitors throughout the stage’s running, as cars “polished” the ice and reduced available traction for the cars following them.
Running first, Hyundai junior Loubet set a time of 16:40.3sec, and it was only Neuville who managed to come close and indeed surpass it.
Neuville was clearly compensating for his off on SS9 by pushing extra hard, swinging his i20 through the hairpins as he looked to reduce some of his deficit. The Belgian was rewarded, taking top spot by 12sec from Loubet. He moved up to 4th, just 1.4sec off Rovanperä.
The Finn, one of front-runners to first experience worsening grip, lost 24.2sec but it would ultimately prove to be a decent job of damage limitation.
“I hope I don’t lose 42sec to Elfyn, that’s the most important!” Sébastien Ogier
It was downhill from there for the rest of the competitors on the stage as the grip levels plummeted, each car making the iced-over road less grippy for the next.
Dani Sordo secured a Hyundai 1-2-3, struggling for grip but driving with a commitment that paid dividends. He was 14sec down on SS10 on Neuville but is now a comfortable 5th overall.
It was calamity upon disaster meanwhile for the 4th Hyundai of Ott Tänak, on the very same stage he spectacularly crashed out of last year. Yet another puncture left him limping through most of the test on a rear-left rim. Having suffered one on the previous run and therefore having no spare, the Estonian lost almost 9 minutes, dropping him down to 14th.
Event rules prevent competitors from driving to the service park with only three wheels. As a result Tänak was forced to retire, the regulations not allowing a car retired on the Saturday to run on the Sunday.