Tanak off to flyer as Breen struggles
Ott Tanak dominated the first forest leg of Wales Rally GB, finishing the day with a 28-second lead as he stepped up his world championship challenge.
The Estonian, who is second in the series, sandwiched between leader Thierry Neuville and reigning champion Sebastien Ogier after three straight victories, was fastest on seven of the eight stages yesterday, his Toyota stretching away from the chasing pack.
Neuville was in second place, his Hyundai having squeezed ahead of Tanak's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala when his Toyota suffered a broken windscreen.
Ogier was up to fifth after a morning when his Ford Fiesta was dogged by transmission issues, leaving him with first and second gears. He dropped to eighth but with the gearbox replaced at service after six, the French ace began his climb back up the leaderboard.
But the Citroens of Craig Breen and Mads Ostberg again failed to make an impact in the slippery forests. Breen was sixth and Ostberg eighth, the two of them already more than half-a-minute off the leading pace.
"I'm trying my best and the times are good compared with the guys around me but Tanak is in a different race," said Breen.
A two-time Circuit of Ireland winner from Waterford, Breen's position at Citroen is thought to be under threat following the announcement that Ogier will leave M-Sport Ford at the end of the season to re-join the French team where he is expected to be joined by Esapekka Lappi who may be replaced at Toyota by Kris Meeke.
Meanwhile, Colin Turkington set the fastest time in free practice ahead of his debut in this weekend's Chinese Touring Car Championship round at Wuhan.
Turkington headed straight out to China after securing his third British title at Brands Hatch on Sunday, joining the SAIC VW333 Racing team as an international wild card entry. Despite the switch from BMW to a Volkswagen Lamando GTSs he was quickly on the pace around the Wuhan street circuit.
"I'm learning every lap and we have a good team of engineers working on the car," he said.