Dani Sordo almost doubled his Rally Italia Sardegna lead on Saturday morning to head a Hyundai Motorsport 1-2.
The Spaniard, competing for the first time since March and bidding to secure back-to-back wins on the Mediterranean island, widened his overnight advantage to 31.6sec after two loops of two gravel speed tests.
Sordo slowed to avoid a cow in the opening test but was quickest in the next. “The first stage was a bit more difficult but the second and fourth stages were quite OK. I see Thierry (Neuville) and Seb (Ogier) coming quite fast, so we need to keep pushing to the end,” he said.”
Hyundai i20 team-mate Thierry Neuville traded vital seconds with Sebastien Ogier. After initially dropping behind the Frenchman, Neuville snatched second in the final special stage after Teemu Suninen had fallen away with mechanical problems in his Ford Fiesta.
Ogier won the opening Monte Lerno stage in his Toyota Yaris. He was fastest in the second pass too, but Belgian Neuville won the morning’s closing test to regain second by 3.0sec.
While most front-running drivers chose five medium compound Michelin tyres, Neuville opted for six and admitted the extra weight hampered his car’s handling.
Championship leader Elfyn Evans was fourth in another Yaris, almost 20sec behind Ogier. The Welshman rued a cautious approach to the second Monte Lerno run in which he yielded valuable seconds. “I was too careful trying to look after the tyres and paid the price for it,” he admitted.
Suninen faded from the podium battle after handbrake problems in his Ford Fiesta. He lost time after it failed and caused an overshoot in the second stage and conceded more seconds as he nursed the issue through the rest of the morning. He was 60sec off the lead.
Ott Tänak completed the top six in an i20. The Estonian climbed two places, firstly relegating Pierre-Louis Loubet and then inheriting another place when Gus Greensmith retired his Fiesta from sixth with a broken alternator belt.
The Briton stopped on the liaison section to the final stage. He replaced the belt but the car’s battery was flat and the Fiesta would not restart.
Loubet admitted he was lucky to be still running. After an opening stage puncture, the young Frenchman swiped the rear left of the car against a bank and ended the loop with no rear aero on the car.
The top 10 was completed by WRC 3 drivers. Jari Huttunen survived a puncture to climb from fourth into the category lead in eighth overall in his i20. Kajetan Kajetanowicz was ninth and Oliver Solberg dropped to 10th after a puncture in his Skoda Fabia.
Kalle Rovanperä’s weekend turned from bad to worse. After a troubled day yesterday, the young Finn ripped both rear wheels off his Yaris after drifting wide and bouncing hard off two trees.