Adrien Fourmaux leads Rally Islas Canarias by 33.4s with four stages of this action-packed FIA European Rally Championship season finale remaining.
Fourmaux snatched first place from overnight pacesetter Iván Ares on SS10 but then slipped behind Nil Solans on SS11, which was also affected by rain.
However, Solans completed the stage with two deflated tyres. With only one spare on board his Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo, he was forced to limp through the morning loop’s remaining two stages, dropping out of the top 10 as a result.
“We need to finish in second position for the Spanish championship and that’s the main goal right now,” a dejected Solans said at the completion of SS13.
While Solans has struggled, Fourmaux has been on flying form in his Michelin-equipped M-Sport Ford World Rally Team-run Fiesta R5 MkII. As well as leading overall, the Frenchman holds a comfortable advantage in ERC1 Junior.
“It’s crazy,” he said of the morning’s slippery stage action. “It was a really, really difficult loop. Okay we had a better tyre choice but with the rain the grip is changing every time. We lose some time [with the brakes] but we are quite happy and everything is okay.”
Yoann Bonato is a strong second overall after going quickest on SS10 and SS12 in his Citroën C3 R5, but Ares is in trouble after picking up a front-left puncture on SS11 and damaging the left-rear suspension on his Hyundai i20 R5 on SS12. The Spaniard is third overall but 1m00.9s down on Fourmaux and seemingly out of contention for his first ERC victory.
Swede Oliver Solberg, who is contention to claim an ERC and ERC1 Junior title double, demoted José Suárez to fifth on SS13, the Spanish driver nursing damaged suspension on his Fabia.
Alexey Lukyanuk was fastest on SS13 following an off on SS11 as he continues his pursuit of a second European championship.
Luis Monzón is seventh but worried about a possible gearbox issue in his Citroën C3 R5.
Andreas Mikkelsen lost time stopping and reversing on SS12 and then picked up a 20s penalty for starting SS13 two minutes late after his Fabia refused to fire up. The Rally Hungary winner is eighth overall with Callum Devine demoting his fellow Irishman Craig Breen for ninth on SS13.
Miko Marczyk is P11 for the ORLEN Team with Marijan Griebel dropping to P12 after a time-consuming off on the final right-hander on SS11, which was a problem for several drivers due to standing water.
Simone Tempestini, Surhayén Pernia and Nil Solans complete the top 15 followed by Canary Islander Enrique Cruz, who crashed heavily nearing the finish of SS11 but has manged to continue with damage to the front of his Fiesta.
Yeray Lemes is P17 with Niki Mayr-Melnhof, who was second fastest on SS13, P18. Grégoire Munster and Josh McErlean complete the top 20 in their Hyundai i20 R5s with both suffering issues on this morning’s final stage.
Munster, who started Rally Islas Canarias leading the ERC1 Junior standings, went straight on into a barrier, while McErlean picked up a rear puncture.
Despite inflicting substantial damage to the left side of his Peugeot 208 Rally4 with an off on SS11, Rallye Team Spain’s Pep Bassas is more than four minutes in front of ERC3/ERC3 Junior rival Ken Torn, who damaged his Ford Fiesta Rally4 on SS11 before going off the road on SS12.
Dariusz Poloński started leg two with a 40s advantage over Tibor Érdi Jr in ERC2 but an off on SS10 has left him nursing a mechanical issue on his Abarth 124 rally ever since, with Érdi Jr taking the category lead on SS11 as he edges closer to a third ERC2 title.
Saturday afternoon’s loop gets underway with the second running of Vallesseco – DISA from 13h51 local time.