LEADER SÉBASTIEN OGIER’S GRIP ON RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA WAS SLASHED TO ONLY A HANDFUL OF SECONDS BY A CHARGING THIERRY NEUVILLE ON SATURDAY MORNING.
Ogier completed the morning’s three speed tests with just a 4.9sec margin over the Belgian, who regained almost 15sec with a masterful drive through the iconic Monte Lerno stage.
After trading seconds through the opening two tests, Neuville stormed to fastest time in his Hyundai i20 while Ogier was only sixth in his Ford Fiesta.
“Yes, I had a good stage but nothing more than in the previous one,” said Neuville. “It was quite rough. We want to bring home a good result for the team and the championship so we’ll see what will be our approach this afternoon.”
Ogier denied he had any problems on the rocky roads. “Wrong rhythm probably. At the end of the stage I had a lot of oversteer. I have to push more this afternoon,” he said.
Jari-Matti Latvala remained on top of the battle for third with team-mate Esapekka Lappi. Having conceded time in the opening test, Latvala was quicker in both Monti di Ala’ and Monte Lerno to head his fellow Toyota Yaris driver by 7.0sec.
Hayden Paddon overhauled Mads Østberg to move into fifth. The Kiwi was third in Monte Lerno in his i20 to hold a 4.9sec advantage over the Norwegian, who struggled with understeer in his Citroën C3.
Craig Breen was seventh in another C3, the Irishman surviving a big hit on the front right in Monti di Ala’. New WRC 2 leader Jan Kopecký was eighth, ahead of Martin Prokop and Nicolas Ciamin.
Stéphane Lefebvre ceded the lead of the support category after stopping in Monti di Ala’ with suspension problems in his R5-specification C3.
Teemu Suninen dropped more than three minutes when he changed a puncture after hitting a bank and spinning his Fiesta. Fellow Rally 2-returnee Andreas Mikkelsen also spun and had to drive back up the stage briefly to find a place wide enough to turn round.