Tänak down to sixth place going into Rally Belgium final day

Ott Tänak and Martin Järvoja in action in Rally Belgium.
Ott Tänak and Martin Järvoja in action in Rally Belgium. Source: Hyundai Motorsport

Estonia rally driver Ott Tänak has had a disappointing second day at the Renties Ypres Rally Belgium, after tire issues caused him to drop down to sixth place where he had started off the day in second. His Hyundai teammates continue to dominate, however.

In the first stage Saturday, Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja had a tire rupture, forcing them to change wheel track-side – an activity made all the more complex by the fact their tire jack was out-of-action, ERR's sports portal reports.

The first half of Saturday's race day continued like the opening day in Hyundai's supremacy, but in the 11th test, Toyota got its first test win when Elfyn Evans drove the fastest. However, Hyundai and local hero Thierry Neuville won the maintenance break, winning a powerful 12th attempt.

By the end of the stage the Estonian pair were down to seventh place, behind Takamoto Katsuta in the Toyota Yaris. Local hero Neuville won the stage.

Katsuta went on to have an accident in stage 10, knocking down an electricity pole in the process, but he and co-driver Keaton Williams escaped unharmed, again, Neuville was victorious, but stage 11 saw Elfyn Evans, bag the teams first stage win of the meeting, though Thierry Neuville was back on form in the next stage.

The second half of the day saw defending world champion and overall table leader going into round eight of the championship in Belgium, Sebastien Ogier, win two of the next three stages after the maintenance break, in his Toyota Yaris, the last stage was Neuville's again.

Going in to the final day, Neuville is unsurprisingly in first place, followed by Irishman Craig Breen, another Hyundai man (+10.1) and Welshman Elfyn Evans (+42.4) in the Toyota Yaris.

Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) is in fourth (+45.7), Ogier fifth (+49.4) and Tänak a way back in sixth place after the morning's tire incident, nearly four minutes behind Neuville.

Tänak took second place in the 9.81-kilometer Langemark test Friday, and remained in that position by the end of Friday, despite engine issues which have been causing a loss of power, while Hyundai dominated through the opening day.

The Ypres Rally is the 56th of its kind – The 2020 event was canceled due to the pandemic – and follows a 295.78-kilometer course of narrow and slippery roads where they encounter a variety of different asphalt surfaces, also having to negotiate fast bends without coming to grief in the many ditches that line the route.

The race stage names evoke history, both peace-time – On Sunday the focus moves in part to the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit, more familiar as the long-time home of the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix – and wartime; Stavelot, the other venue Sunday, was the scene of heavy fighting late on in World War Two, while the ancient Flemish city of Ypres, which gives the rally its name, was razed to the ground in World War One.

Tänak has won one race so far this season, the Arctic Rally in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland, back in February, and lay in fourth place in the table going into Rally Belgium. Sebastien Ogier led ahead of this weekend's events, over Evans and Neuville.

Only two WRC2 cars remain in the hunt, with 19-year-old Oliver Solberg still holding the lead he inherited Friday, despite having to make do without steering power for much of the day.

Another Estonian in the race, Robert Virves, taking part in the junior WRC class, is in second place, over a minute behind Jan Armstrong in the lead.

Four stages remain Sunday, starting at 9.30 a.m. Estonian time at Stavelot and finishing at the Spa Francorchamps circuit, in the heart of the Ardennes, at a little before 1.30 p.m. Sunday.

2021 Renties Ypres Rally Belgium full schedule of stages, with stage distance, start time, and stage winner in italics

Friday
Test stage Langemark (9.81 km) 9.01 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS1 Reninge Vleteren 1 (15.00 km) 14.36 O. Tänak (Hyundai)
SS2 Westouter - Boeschepe 1 (19.60 km) 15.25 C. Breen (Hyundai)
SS3 Kemmelberg 1 (23.62 km) 16.15 C. Breen (Hyundai)
SS4 Zonnebeke 1 (9.45 km) 17.09 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
Maintenance break
SS5 Reninge - Vleteren 2 (15.00km) 19.15 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS6 Westouter - Boeschepe 2 (19.60 km) 20.04 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS7 Kemmelberg 2 (23.62 km) 20.54 T. Neuville (Hyundai)
SS8 Zonnebeke 2 (9.45 km) 21.48 Stage cancelled due to safety concerns

Saturday
SS9 Hollebeke 1 (23.53 km) 10.11 T. Neuville
SS10 Dikkebus 1 (12.49 km) 11.08 T. Neuville
SS11 Watou 1 (13.62 km) 12.01  C. Breen
SS12 Mesen - Middelhoek 1 (7.99 km) 12.51 T. Neuville
Hoolduspaus
SS13 Hollebeke 2 (25.86 km) 15.11 S. Ogier (Toyota)
SS14 Dikkebus 2 (12.49 km) 16.08 T. Neuville
SS15 Watou 2  (13.62 km) 17.01 S. Ogier
SS16 Mesen - Middelhoek 2 (7.99 km) 17.51 T. Neuville

Sunday
SS17 Stavelot 1 (9.05 km) 9.30
SS18 Francorchamps 1 (11.21 km) 10.08
SS19 Stavelot 2 (9.05 km) 11.40
SS20 Francorchamps 2 (11.21 km) 13.18

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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