Elfyn Evans remained in control of Dayinsure Wales Rally GB after winning five of the six wet and muddy forest speed tests on Saturday morning.
The Ford Fiesta pilot chalked up his fifth straight win in the second pass through Gartheiniog. His hopes of racking up six of the best were dented by Thierry Neuville, who was fastest in the repeat of the long Dyfi stage.
“We managed everything well. It’s a long, long loop for the tyres so we had to look after them. At the start of Dyfi everything was OK and I wasn’t pushing. But by the end I had no grip compared to what I’m used to and I started to struggle,” explained Evans.
His lead over Thierry Neuville was 47.9sec, but the Belgian continued to ease away from M-Sport duo Ott Tänak and Sébastien Ogier. The gap to third-placed Tänak rose to 14.0sec with championship leader Ogier a further 3.3sec behind.
“We were a bit careful in a couple of corners but what you lose on the braking you gain on the exit,” said Neuville. “I’m looking for the braking going into the corners and then the traction coming out.”
“Thierry is very strong and there’s nothing we can do with him. We are definitely lacking something,” said Tänak, who was eighth and fifth in the two stages.
Team-mate Ogier finished sixth and third and concurred with the Estonian. “We’re missing some pace somewhere, and if we could find some more performance it would be good. It’s so close between five or six drivers that if you relax a bit then you soon fall back,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala remained fifth but was under increasing pressure from Andreas Mikkelsen, who slashed the deficit to 1.6sec. Latvala was happier with his Yaris’ handling at the rear but his attentions were now focused on improving the front.
Kris Meeke’s Citroën C3 was missing the top section of its rear wing for both tests and the Ulsterman clearly noticed the effect. “We didn’t have much downforce, it’s a bit more exciting, that’s for sure!” he said.
Hayden Paddon remained eighth, but the Kiwi lost time after driving Dyfi with a hydraulic problem in his i20 which affected the gearbox and differentials.