OTT Tának’s quest to pull off a remarkable double has been jolted by his teammate after the morning loop of Kennards Hire Rally Australia, the showdown for the FIA World Rally Championship on the Coffs Coast today.
Tänak surrendered his overall lead as the event entered its closing stages during the second test of the final day when he under-steered off the road, losing more than 12 seconds.
With three more stages to run this afternoon, the incident also dashed his outside chance of claiming the WRC drivers’ crown, which would rely on him winning and claiming bonus points in the event-closing Wedding Bells Power Stage this afternoon.
The mistake has allowed Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Jari-Matti Latvala to snatch the lead by five seconds.
Latvala had already eroded Tänak’s lead by more than nine seconds after topping a slippery 15.55km Coramba stage.
Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon continued to apply pressure from behind, topping the Sapphire run and closing in third place overall, 19.6 seconds off the lead.
Paddon has managed to keep Citroen’s Mads Østberg in fourth position and is close enough to pounce if problems hit the leading Toyotas.
Tänak, who entered the final day with a 21.9 second lead over Latvala after yesterday’s Nambucca Valley stages, previously reported that he lost power briefly during the opening Coramba test on his way to salvaging third for the stage.
In his quest to hunt down championship favourite Sébastien Ogier, Neuville clipped a bank with the left-front of the Hyundai i20 through the opening stage of the morning while pushing hard on a slippery,rain-affected surface.
Neuville then struck trouble on the 19.27km Sapphire stage, damaging his exhaust.
However, the Belgian managed to chip away at the deficit to Ogier to the tune of 7.7 seconds in the opening two stages of the day before gaining another 3.6 seconds on the Wedding Bells stage.
Ogier, in sixth overall, continues to hold the trump card in his mission to claim a sixth-straight WRC title as Neuville cannot seem to make any meaningful inroads from eighth position.
The morning loop of three special stages will be repeated this afternoon after a lunchtime service break.
TOP 10 AFTER SS21 of 24:
1 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota) 2:33.38.4s
2 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Toyota) +5s
3 Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai) +19.6s
4 Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen) +47.6s
5 Esapekka Lappi/ Janne Ferm (Toyota) +58.1s
6 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (M-Sport Ford) +01:45.8s
7 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (M-Sport Ford) +02:07.3s
8 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai) +02:24.9s
9 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (M-Sport Ford) +03:24.7s
10 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen) +07:20.1s