MADS OSTBERG JUST OUTSIDE PODIUM PLACES
Mads Østberg and Torstein Eriksen were not quite as fast on today's stages as they were on the opening leg, but they nonetheless held onto fourth place, whilst Craig Breen and Scott Martin ended the day in tenth overall after unfortunately making a minor mistake.
The weekend's longest leg (133 timed kilometres over ten stages), day two looked like it might provide plenty of drama.
Unfortunately, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT experienced some of this first hand. Second overall this morning, Craig Breen slipped to fifth following the second stage of the day (SS10) after a minor issue with the throttle sticking open, before then getting caught out and damaging the rear left suspension of his C3 WRC on the next stage. Penalised for arriving late at the start of the next stage, he dropped down to tenth overall. After staying with the rally leader for long periods during his blistering second run on Welshs Creek Reserve (28.83km), the rally's longest stage, Craig reminded everyone in the afternoon that the pace he showed yesterday was no fluke.
Less comfortable on today's faster stages, Mads Østberg vigorously attempted to stave off his rivals' repeated attacks and held onto the overall lead for most of the morning. On the third stage of the day (SS11), however, the Norwegian was unable to hold on any longer. He also showed real tenacity in the afternoon, consistently finishing in the top five. He therefore stayed within striking distance of the podium, although his first pass on the super-special stage (SS17) – contested in the rain whilst his two main rivals completed it in dry conditions – cost him a few vital seconds.
Longer than usual, with some 83.96 kilometres of timed stages to complete, Sunday's leg may still spring a few surprises, especially as the bumpy roads to the north of Coffs Harbour are reputed to be fairly demanding…
WHAT THEY SAID
Pierre Budar, Citroën Racing Team Principal
"We were obviously expecting more from today's leg but the type of stages contested were less to the liking of our crews. Despite his mistake, Craig was nonetheless competitive at times. As was Mads and he is within striking distance of the podium places this evening. Given that there is still quite a long way to go on tomorrow's final leg, a lot of things can still happen."
"It just wasn't our day today. I was unlucky this morning with a minor mistake that proved to be a very costly one. It's especially disappointing because we still had the speed to do well. Although we'll be first on the road tomorrow, we're going to enjoy these magnificent stages as much as possible right to the end."
"We struggled a bit more today to find the right rhythm and balance, especially on the second loop of stages, then we were really hampered by the sudden rainfall on this evening's super special stage. But together, we fought hard and gave a good account of ourselves. We didn't give up at any point, and that'll be our mindset tomorrow as well."
STANDINGS AFTER DAY 2
- Tänak / Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 2:07:52.0
- Latvala / Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +21.9
- Paddon / Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +26.3
- Ostberg / Eriksen (Citroën C3 WRC) +46.6
- Lappi / Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +50.4
- Ogier / Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:44.8
- Evans / Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:04.6
- Neuville / Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:35.2
- Suninen / Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:49.0
- Breen / Martin (Citroën C3 WRC) +6:26.8