Estonian rally star Ott Tänak lies in fifth place going into the second day of RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de Espana on Saturday, taking another step towards his maiden WRC title, helped by leading rival Sébastien Ogier (Citroën) of France having a bad day on Friday.
Tänak tops the WRC drivers' table with two races to go, including Catalunya. Only reigning champion Ogier, and Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) have a mathematical chance of catching Tänak by the end of the season. Ogier, who is 38 points behind Tänak, hit trouble on the gravel stages in Catalunya on Friday, losing almost four minutes and, after a brief spell in the lead, Neuville also faded slightly to be replaced by teammate and rally legend, 45-year-old Sébastien Loeb.
Loeb, nine-times world champion, leads, going into Saturday, with Neuville in second place and Dani Sordo (Hyundai) from Cantabria in northern Spain, in third, in front of a relative home crowd. Tänak's teammate at Toyota, Kris Meeke (Northern Ireland) finished fourth, followed by Tänak, Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland, Toyota) and Elfyn Evans (Wales, Ford).
Citroën generally did not have a great day on Friday. Ogier's teammate, Esapekka Lappi (Finland) retired with engine problems. The team, which currently leads the manufacturers' table with Toyota snapping at their heels, had been testing various different aerodynamic setups ahead of Rally Catalunya, as well as tinkering with shock absorbers ahead of the preceding race in Wales, but neither development made it to race day.
Ogier's wife, Andrea Kaiser, brought some insouciance to proceedings as well, tweeting that "Shame on you [Citroën] for sitting a world champion in a car like that," replete with the hashtag "Sh*troen", following Friday's mechanical problems.
A unique blend of gravel stages on Friday followed by faster asphalt on Saturday, Rally Catalunya presents great challenges for mechanics and teams.
ERR's online sports portal is liveblogging Saturday's stages (in Estonian) here.
Editor: Andrew Whyte