Tom Kristensson kept a cool head over tricky terrain on Saturday at ACI Rally Monza to edge one step closer to FIA Junior WRC glory.
As the field of M-Sport Poland Ford Fiesta Rally4s left service early on Saturday morning, the Swede held a hefty lead over title rival Martins Sesks, who dropped time on Friday afternoon with a puncture.
The technical roads of the Italian Alps take no prisoners. Sesks was quick to find that out when he crashed out in dramatic fashion midway through the opening Selvino speed test.
The Latvian’s retirement means Kristensson simply needs to finish on Sunday to be crowned champion, and the 29-year-old leads by 2min 46.6sec with just three stages left to complete.
“I’m feeling really good, confident and under control,” he said.
“Tomorrow will still be tough so we need to stay focused. I’m sorry to see Martins go out and not be able to fight to the finish, but this is rallying and that’s how it goes sometimes, I’m glad he is OK though.”
With two of the afternoon’s stages cancelled, Paraguayan youngster Fabrizio Zaldivar cruised through at a sensible pace to end the day second, 1min 07.6sec ahead of Ruairi Bell.
Sami Pajari restarted on Saturday morning after crashing out on Friday and was able to claim a stage win during the Costa Valle Imagna blast. The Finn completed the leaderboard more than 34 minutes back from Kristensson in fourth.
Full coverage from ACI Rally Monza is available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.