Oct 6 (Reuters) - Sebastien Ogier will lead Wales Rally GB into Sunday’s final stages after Toyota’s overnight leader Ott Tanak retired with mechanical problems, ending his hopes of a fourth win in succession.
In another dramatic twist, Hyundai’s championship leader Thierry Neuville dropped down the order after sliding into a ditch.
Sunday promises to be a close battle for victory, with M-Sport Ford’s reigning champion Ogier leading Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala by 4.4 seconds, with the Finn’s team mate and compatriot Esapekka Lappi a further 7.4 behind.
There are five stages remaining.
Tanak had arrived in North Wales on the back of victories in Finland, Germany and Turkey that had pushed him up to second overall and poised to oust Neuville from the number one position.
He had built up a lead of 28.8 seconds over Neuville on Friday and was 43.2 seconds clear of Ogier after the Belgian’s misfortune on the Sweet Lamb Hafren special stage.
Spectators pushed the car back onto the road but Neuville had lost more than 45 seconds.
“At one point it has to come, when you’re driving on the edge since the beginning of the year. It’s my first mistake where I was stuck somewhere since Monte Carlo. It was my fault,” said Neuville.
Tanak increased his lead during the morning loop of forest stages but it all went wrong in the afternoon.
“They don’t know exactly what happened. I think he first lost the sump guard and then broke the radiator and the water pressure is gone. It is a big disappointment,” said Toyota team boss Tommi Makinen. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Neil Robinson)