Neuville and Tanak’s causes were aided significantly by their main rivals hitting problems over the course of the three tricky stages, with Ogier suffering an off in SS3 and losing more than 40secs to the leaders in eighth. Despite this, the Frenchman was back up to speed for the remainder of the morning in the M-Sport Ford Fiesta and has recovered to third, just under a minute behind Neuville.
There was worse luck for Citroen’s Meeke and Toyota’s Hanninen though after the pair slid off on SS4 and SS5 respectively having been holding down provisional podium positions behind the trouble-free Neuville and Tanak
Their misfortune means Jari-Matti Latvala is leading the Toyota challenge in fourth place, albeit a distant 1min 20secs off the lead, with Dani Sordo fifth in the second Hyundai.
With both new Citroen C3s hitting problems – Stephane Lefebvre running down the order after restarting this morning -, Craig Breen heads the French firm’s challenge now, albeit in the dated DS3.
Elsewhere, Hayden Paddon has been retired from the rally as a mark of respect to the spectator who died following his accident on SS1, while DMACK Ford’s Elfyn Evans is down in ninth after losing 5mins with an off on SS3 at the same point Ogier went off.
In WRC2, Andres Mikkelsen has established a clear early lead for Skoda in seventh overall, 1m 22secs up on Fabia counterpart Pontus Tidemand.
1. Thierry Neuville BEL Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1h 11.24.6s M
2. Ott Tanak EST M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +31.7s M
3. Sebastien Ogier FRA M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +59.1s M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala FIN Toyota Yaris Gazoo Racing WRC +1m 21.4s M
5. Dani Sordo ESP Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC +1m 41.1s M
6. Craig Breen IRL Citroen DS3 Abu Dhabi WRC +1m 52.2s
7. Andreas Mikkelsen NOR Skoda Fabia R5 +3m 35.1s WRC2
8. Pontus Tidemand SWE Skoda Fabia R5 +4m 57.8s WRC2
9. Elfyn Evans GBR DMACK M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC +5m 15.7s M
10. Bryan Bouffier FRA Gemini Ford Fiesta R5 +5m 19.3s WRC2
11. Jan Kopecky CZE Skoda Fabia R5 +5m 21.7s WRC2
12. Eric Camilli FRA M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5 +5m 45.1s WRC2
13. Olivier Burri SUI Ford Fiesta R5 +8m 12.9s WRC2
14. Quentin Gilbert FRA Ford Fiesta R5 +8m 43.5s WRC2
15. Raphael Astier FRA Peugeot 208 T16 R5 +11.23.2s WRC2