Thierry Neuville extended his Safari Rally lead to nearly a minute as a calm second day in Kenya ended with a dramatic rain soaked stage to haul Ogier back into the podium positions.
Neuville spend the morning slowing increasing his lead in his Hyundai i20 WRC to just over thirty seconds from second placed Toyota Yaris WRC driver Takamoto Katsuta, who was losing time through the day as he looked to steadily reach the end of the event, while being relentlessly chased by third placed Ott Tanak.
Tanak had got into within fifteen seconds of the Japanese drive on SS12 with just the final run through SS13 to go. But as the crews entered the stage a passing African rain storm hit the drivers at different times and not all would suffer the same amount of rain.
When Tanak hit the rain his side of the heated windscreen failed, so while his co-driver could see clearly, he could not. Stopping in stage to clear his screen, Tanak lost nearly two minutes and ended the day in fourth as a clever Sebastien Ogier suddenly found himself back on the podium.
Ogier won three stages in a row during the day as his fully working Yaris WRC allowed him to set some times more akin to the seven time world champion. The time lost by Katsuta on the final stage of the day meant that not only did Ogier get promoted to third, he also slashed the gap to second from fifty one seconds to just eighteen.
With Sunday being the second longest final day of the season so far there will be plenty of time of Ogier to catch Katsuta and pass him to further heap misery on his closest championship rival Evans as well as limit the damage done by Neuville possibly claiming the rally win.
The M-Sport Ford’s of Gus Greensmith and Adrien Fourmaux rounded out the top six as the pair of Fiesta WRC drivers continued their mature approach to the event. Greensmith lost some time on the final stage of the day as he hit the rain storm head on and ended up an escape road as the rain had turned the once dusty road surface into an ice rink but otherwise had a quiet day.
Team-mate Fourmaux did close the gap to him on the final stage to just twelve seconds and scored a second fastest stage time of the day on SS9. However most of that time gained was on the final rain hit stage, so it remains to be seen with Fourmaux can push on – if allowed to by the team.
Seventh was Kalle Rovenpera returning under the Rally2 restart rules having got stuck in some fesh-fesh sand yesterday and had a quiet day of setting top ten stages times as he sits eleven minutes off the lead. The rest of the top ten was made up of locals in WRC3 as Onkar Rai, Karan Patel and Karl Tundo completed the top ten overall.
Lorenzo Bertelli, Elfyn Evans and Dani Sordo also all returned under Rally2 and all had similarly quiet day as Rovenpera and sit in eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth overall – though Sordo as first on the road did score a fastest stage time on the final stage of the day.