Stage 3 red flagged as all three M-Sport Pumas hit trouble
Stage 3, the first of the day’s eight tests, was abandoned after the third M-Sport Ford Puma, driven by privateer Jourdan Serderidis, blocked the narrow road to El Chocolate and headed in the opposite direction.
It’s unclear exactly how the Greek rider got stranded on the stage. Former M-Sport driver Gus Greensmith was the first driver to reach the Puma and had to stop before the red flags were raised.
The incident was the third issue M-Sport encountered during the eventful test. Overnight rally leader Ott Tanak suffered turbo failure 15.8km into the 29.07km stage, forcing the 2019 World Champion to limp to the finish.
The championship leader got out of the car and tried to fix the problem in the stage, which resulted in Toyota’s Kalle Rovanpera overtaking the stranded Puma.
Tanak was able to start again but had to stop and let Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville through.
In the end, Tanak finished the stage 7:47.7 behind stage winner and new rally leader Hyundai’s Esapekka Lappi. The Finn now leads 1.2 seconds ahead of Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo in third.
To make matters worse for M-Sport, Tanak’s teammate Pierre-Louis Loubet had to retire the day after hitting a rock with the right front of his Puma.
Ott Tanak, Martin Jarveoja, M-Sport Ford World Rally Team Ford Puma Rally1
Photo by: M-Sport
The Frenchman, who was taking part in his first rally outside of Europe, misjudged entering a tight right-hand corner which resulted in his damaged Puma stalling at the side of the road.
“It can’t get any worse for us,” said M-Sport team boss Richard Millener.
“This is one of the toughest rallies around and we haven’t been here in a couple of years. It looks like one technical problem for Ott and two problems for the other cars, maybe from hitting rocks or damaging the cars. A bit of a disaster, but not much we can do.”
“The intent is for Ott to try and move on but it’s difficult to know where we are at the moment. It’s survival of the fittest in this rally and we’re only one gravel stage in.
“Looking ahead to the championship we will try to get back to the best possible position but it’s very difficult to make those decisions when we don’t have a lot of information other than what we’ve seen on TV.”
Tanak started the delayed Stage 4 but continued to struggle with a lack of turbo hoping to get to midday service to fix the issue.