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Tanak surges in front as his title rivals struggle

 

By Sammy Hamill

Ott Tanak stepped up his challenge for a first World rally title, grabbing the lead on the first full day of the penultimate round of the series, Rally Catalunya.

The Estonian, who will Kris Meeke's Toyota team-mate next season, continued his imperious form of recent rallies - he has won three of the last four events - building a lead of over seconds after the opening leg of gravel stages close to Salou.

Third in the WRC standings, Tanak had pulled 26 seconds clear of the second placed Hyundai of Dani Sordo but more importantly his title rivals, Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier, were left trailing in his wake as they struggled to cope with their positions at the top of the running order.

World champion Ogier was back in sixth place in his M-Sport Ford, 40 seconds adrift, and Hyundai's Neuville, the championship leader, was ninth, almost a minute behind.

It proved to be another difficult day for Craig Breen who lost time when he spun and stalled his Citroen, finishing the day in eighth, four places behind his team-mate for this rally, Sebastien Loeb.

The nine-times World champion stalled his C3 on the show stage in Barcelona on Thursday night, dropping 15 seconds, but fought back yesterday to move to fourth just behind the Ford of former Ulster Rally winner Elfyn Evans.

Meanwhile, Wayne Boyd's United Autosports team were right on the pace during free practice ahead of the final round of the European Le Mans sports car series at Portimao in Portugal.

The Templepatrick driver, who celebrated his 27th birthday this week, won his first ELMS race in the LMP3 category at the Portuguese circuit last year and was promoted up to the main LMP2 class this season.

Boyd and team-mates Hugo de Sadeleer and Will Owen were third fastest yesterday, two-10ths of a second behind UA's No.1 prototype Ligier crewed by Filipe Albuquerque and Phil Hanson.

Fastest time was set by the French Duqueine Engineering Oreca of Pierre Ragues, just 7/100ths of a second ahead of local hero Alburquerque.

Belfast Telegraph

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