Sébastien Ogier is back in front on Italy’s round of the FIA World Rally Championship, demoting overnight leader Esapekka Lappi during a punishing morning on Rally Italia Sardegna.
Ending Friday’s opening leg separated by a mere 0.1s, Lappi and Ogier’s fierce battle continued as the action resumed this morning on rock-strewn gravel roads in the northern part of the Mediterranean island.
Ogier made his intentions known by edging his Finnish rival through Coiluna-Loelle to move into the lead. However, Lappi swiftly counterattacked on the next stage, narrowly claiming back the position with a spirited drive in Su Filigosu.
But Lappi’s return to the top of the order was short-lived as the pair entered the iconic Erula - Tulia, the longest stage of the day at 21.92 kilometres. While the Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid driver lacked confidence in the slippery conditions and was slowed by a damaged front-left tyre, Ogier reigned supreme.
Beating Lappi by an impressive 13.0s through SS10, the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver then stretched his advantage to 18.2s before service in Olbia as Lappi struggled through Tempio Pausania with worn-out tyres.
Thierry Neuville started the day strongly, winning the opening pair of stages to edge closer to the top. His efforts were undone by a puzzlingly off-pace run through Erula – Tula and he trails his Hyundai team-mate Lappi by 6.5s.
Championship leader Kalle Rovanperä is not particularly fond of Sardinia’s rough terrain and the Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid-driving youngster was in no mood for taking risks this morning. He remains fourth overall, 38.8s back from Neuville with fifth-placed team-mate Elfyn Evans 2m53.7s in arrears.
Evans, like several of his rivals, damaged his car in a water splash and was relieved to reach the respite of service having nursed a leaking radiator through the final two stages, dropping almost three minutes in the process.
Takamoto Katsuta and Ott Tänak, on the other hand, weren’t so lucky and both retired with similar troubles.
Dani Sordo, fighting back from his Friday morning roll, has climbed to sixth overall ahead of Adrien Fourmaux, who leads FIA WRC2 in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta Rally2, 19.7s in front of Andreas Mikkelsen’s Toksport-run Škoda Fabia RS Rally2.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz is the top FIA WRC2 Challenger competitor in ninth overall followed by defending WRC2 champion Emil Lindholm.
William Creighton leads FIA WRC3 after overnight leader Roope Korhonen dropped time with a roll. Creighton also tops the JWRC classification ahead of Diego Dominguez.
Mauro Miele’s advantage over Johannes Keferböck in the WRC Masters Cup has risen to 4m48.6s after 11 stages.