SS6: Elsi 2, 11.65km
Elsi has been revised and lengthened from last year, with much of it driven in the opposite direction. A tricky left corner soon after the start sets the tone for what is a highly technical stage and a new section in the middle is just as tight and twisty. Visibility is good in parts where the forest has been harvested, but most areas have low vision due to thick vegetation.
SS7: Penmachno 2, 16.19km
The narrow northern part of Penmachno is joined to the wider southern part by an asphalt link road. After a fast start, the stage passes through a quarry, before a narrow dipping 600 metre section full of bumps and jumps, known as the Cresta Run. It’s a fast test, especially in the second part, but there are several hidden corners where accurate pace notes are crucial.
SS8: Slate Mountain, 1.60km
A revised version of the fan-friendly stage around a slate quarry that was driven for the first time in 2018. It is technical and quite rough in parts with many bumps and surface changes to keep drivers on their toes.
The Frenchman was fifth at the midpoint service in Llandudno after a rain-soaked morning, but as the sun came out this afternoon, so his pace moved up a level.
He won the repeat of both the Elsi and Penmachno tests in his Citroën C3 before regaining more time on the Ulsterman in the short Slate Mountain test.
“I’m happy but it is more difficult than this morning. The grip is higher but there are some ruts and bumps, so it’s not easy. It’s more rough than I expected and we had quite a few impacts so I wasn’t completely comfortable,” Ogier explained.
Meeke was third in Elsi and fourth in Penmachno in his Toyota Yaris.
Ogier’s charge carried him passed Thierry Neuville, who was 4.2sec off the lead in third. Neuville suffered a rear puncture on his Hyundai i20 in Elsi, but was still second fastest before setting the benchmark time in Slate Mountain.
“I can’t really attack. I have to be very clean to go fast and in these conditions you need to push very hard. We’re trying to find grip we’re missing, but on the other hand I need some protection,” explained the Belgian.
Championship leader Ott Tänak held fourth in his Yaris, the Estonian one of several drivers to complain about visibility as windscreens struggled to cope with a combination of mud and bright sunshine. He was 6.9sec off the lead.
Jari-Matti Latvala dropped from third to fifth in Elsi after a rear left puncture on his Yaris. Worse was to follow in Penmachno when the Finn hit the same bank Elfyn Evans clipped in this morning’s first pass and rolled heavily, his car coming to rest on its side against a tree.
Both the Finn and co-driver Miikka Anttila escaped unhurt but the stage was halted as organisers sent in rescue crews and all drivers from Evans onwards will be awarded notional times for the test.
Fellow countryman Esapekka Lappi was a casualty in Elsi. He retired from seventh after plunging his Citroën C3 down a bank shortly after the start and there was no chance of regaining the road.