NEUVILLE FORCED TO RETIRE
Dani Sordo snatched a one-second lead at ACI Rally Monza on Friday night after a daylong battle with Esapekka Lappi on sodden roads.
Spaniard Sordo sped through the closing special stage of the opening leg at Italy’s ‘Cathedral of Speed’ circuit to demote the Finn and lead this final round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 1.0sec.
Both drivers Dani Sordo and Esapekka Lappi later received a 10-second penalty after cutting the same chicane during the opening leg's final PZero Grand Prix Speed Test on the Monza Circuit.
With the penalties applied, Sordo retains his 1.0sec advantage over the Finn with third-placed Sébastien Ogier now only a further second back.
Heavy rain transformed the track and parkland roads into a muddy mess, with standing water causing aquaplaning. Conditions were so extreme that drivers opted for Michelin’s heavily-treaded snow tyre in an effort to find grip.
Sordo won the opening test in his Hyundai i20 to relegate overnight leader Sébastien Ogier, but Lappi was first to gamble on snow tyres and immediately moved ahead. His lead stayed intact until the final test when he ploughed through a chicane and fell behind.
Sordo, who won two of the five stages, was rewarded for making changes to his car’s set-up to improve the handling after yesterday’s curtain-raising test. He will restart last of the frontrunners.
Ogier was the first of four men who started the season finale with a title tilt. He won one stage to lie third in his Toyota Yaris, 11.0sec adrift of Lappi’s Ford Fiesta, despite twice clipping bales and spinning.
To secure a seventh title, Ogier must distance team-mate Elfyn Evans, but the Welshman was only 5.1sec behind in fourth after a measured drive.
Ott Tänak, whose chances of retaining the title hang by a thread, was fifth, despite receiving a shock when the driver’s door of his i20 flew open during SS2. The Estonian was 0.6sec behind Evans and 7.1sec clear of Kalle Rovanperä’s Yaris.
Andreas Mikkelsen, competing in the FIA WRC3 class, ran as high as third, matching the more powerful World Rally Cars in his Rally2-specification Škoda Fabia Evo. He ended seventh, ahead of top-flight debutant Ole Christian Veiby. WRC3 category contenders Emil Lindholm and Oliver Solberg completed the leaderboard.
Thierry Neuville was the first of the title hopefuls to fall. After sliding into a fence this morning, the Belgian clipped a chicane this afternoon before finally retiring when his i20’s engine stopped after ploughing through standing water.
Teemu Suninen retired after limping through three stages with a misfiring engine in his Ford Fiesta and team-mate Gus Greensmith exited when he hit a gate and broke his front right suspension.
Saturday’s longest leg is based on roads near Lake Como, in the foothills of the Italian Alps. Two identical loops of three tests are followed by a closing stage at Monza. The mountain weather will play a massive role, with snow certain to cover the high sections.
In FIA WRC2, Pontus Tidemand battled horrendous weather conditions at ACI Rally Monza to establish a slender category lead. The Swede, driving a Škoda Fabia Rally2, holds an overnight advantage of 6.8sec over M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver Adrian Fourmaux, who was in formidable form during Friday’s morning loop with three impressive stage wins but picked up a right puncture during the second pass.
Mads Østberg was 5.6sec further back in third and reluctant to take any risks so early in the event. The Citroën C3 R5 pilot is fighting head-to-head with Tidemand for the series crown and could mount an attack over Saturday’s mountain stages.
In the Junior WRC Championship, Tom Kristensson is coming closer to a second consecutive title. The Swede finishes the day with a lead of over 2 minutes over Latvia’s Martin Sesks, who faced trouble in Roggia1. Fabrizio Zaldivar completes the Top 3.
2020 ACI Rally Monza – Unofficial Results after Section 6:
1. Dani Sordo (ESP) / Carlos del Barrio (ESP) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 53min 39.3sec
2. Esapekka Lappi (FIN) / Janne Ferm (FIN) Ford Fiesta WRC 53min 40.3sec
3. Sébastien Ogier (FRA) / Julien Ingrassia (FRA) Toyota Yaris WRC 53min 41.3sec
4. Elfyn Evans (GBR) / Scott Martin (GBR) Toyota Yaris WRC 53min 46.4sec
5. Ott Tänak (EST) / Martin Järveoja (EST) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 53min 47.0sec
6. Kalle Rovanperä (FIN) / Jonne Halttunen (FIN) Toyota Yaris WRC 53min 54.1sec
7. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) / Anders Jaeger (NOR) - WRC3 Škoda Fabia Evo 54min 33.5sec
8. Ole Christian Veiby (NOR) / Jonas Andersson (SWE) Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 54min 43.6sec
9. Emil Lindholm (FIN) / Mikael Korhonen (FIN) - WRC3 Škoda Fabia Evo 55min 26.0sec
10. Oliver Solberg (SWE) / Aaron Johnston (IRL) - WRC3 Škoda Fabia Evo 55min 27.2sec