Image: T. Neuville/M. Wydaeghe (photo: Nikos Katsikis / DPPI)
Thierry Neuville grabbed an early lead at Rally Italia Sardegna yesterday after winning the super special stage around the suburbs of Olbia.
The Belgian edged Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Takamoto Katsuta by 0.5sec over the 3.32km curtain-raiser, flinging his Hyundai i20 N through a mixture of asphalt streets and dirt tracks on his way to the benchmark time in the east coast city.
Thousands of fans watched on in delight as the rally got underway ahead of three days of hot and dusty gravel action on the Mediterranean island.
"I had a good stage,” said Neuville. “I think it's going to be a very tough rally and the conditions will be loose and also quite rough.
“I hope we can do a good rally, but we feel well-prepared. It will be interesting to see what the tyre choices will be like tomorrow," he added.
Elfyn Evans was two tenths down on Katsuta to complete the early podium. His GR Yaris colleagues Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi rounded off the top five, each trailing Neuville by 1.0sec with identical times.
Ott Tänak and Dani Sordo brought their Hyundai cars home in sixth and seventh, while M-Sport Ford drivers Adrien Fourmaux, Craig Breen and Gus Greensmith - who drove the stage without a functioning intercom - completed the top 10.
The going gets tougher today when crews begin the longest day of the rally. There will be two stages in the morning - each repeated twice before service - around the Monte Acuto region in Terranova and Monti di Ala, while double runs of Osilo - Tergu and Sedini Castelsardo make up the afternoon.