Toyota’s Ott Tanak holds a slender lead of just 0.8s over Hyundai’s Andrea’s Mikklesen heading into the service break, taking the lead from the Hyundai which had lead following the morning stages
Mikklesen had taken the lead from teammate Thierry Neuville who had lead initially following Thursday nights super special stage, but could only hold a lead of a second over Tanak who was flying in his Toyota. Tanak hit a rock on the Las Bajadas stage, spinning him round, leaving him with steering damage and relegating him to ninth place. Despite this though he absolutely flew throughout the rest of morning and close right up to Mikklesen who leapt to the front himself on SS3 of the rally. On the final stage before the service park (SS5) break Tanak crept past the Hyundai to take an eight tenths of a second lead in the rally.
Things had initially looked good for reigning champion and championship leader Sebastien Ogier, who lead after SS2 despite being first on the road and bearing the full force of the dusty conditions and being the road sweeper for the Friday morning. Despite eventually losing out to Mikklesen, Tanak and Kris Meeke, Ogier is still just 4.5s of the rally lead and had actually reduced that from 5.3s after the morning stages. Meeke is also having a strong run following a disappointing last couple of events, just 3.1s behind the rally lead and well in a hunt in a competitive looking Citroen.
Meanwhile Neuville is currently only sixth position, around 9 seconds behind the leading battle and behind teammate Dani Sordo who is about 7 seconds away from Tanak in the lead, but both still with a shout of the podium and Neuville happy enough with how his rally has gone up to this point. Jari-Matti Latvala, who looked strong after setting the pace in shakedown hit a rock hard on SS3 after holding third in SS2 and looking set to lead following fastest split times in SS3. He has had to retire from the rest of the day’s action. The rest of the field featuring the return Craig Breen, Esapekka Lappi, Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen are some way off the leaders between 14 and 38 seconds behind respectively.