Italy WRC: Ogier takes four-second lead into final day
Sebastien Ogier maintained a slim lead on Rally Italy ahead of World Rally Championship rival Thierry Neuville on Rally Italy, holding a 3.9s advantage after Saturday afternoon.
Reigning champion Ogier’s gap over Neuville had been cut down significantly before midday service, and he lost a further two seconds with a start-line stall in Saturday’s first afternoon test.
Neuville then sustained a slow front right puncture, which him double what he had gained from Ogier’s earlier stall. He responded soon after, winning Saturday’s remaining two tests to claw back 2.9s.
Toyota teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi were engaged in a similarly close scrap for third position, separated by 5.3s. Latvala exercised caution throughout Saturday afternoon, making sure to avoid loose stones and rocks which could cause punctures.
Conversely, Lappi was attacking flat out, closing the gap mid-loop. Latvala responded, going 3.7s faster though Monte Lerno, Saturday’s final test, but faced a worrying end to his day.
The Toyota driver arrived at Monte Lerno’s finish line time control at racing speed, revving his engine while stationary and disappearing just as quickly whilst dismissing onlooking television crews.
Hayden Paddon remains fifth overall, 2.1s ahead of Mads Ostberg. Paddon had gambled on taking one fewer tyre than Ostberg to save weight, as well as bringing soft tyres, though both decisions had a negligible effect on their duel.
Craig Breen is seventh, over one minute adrift of Citroen teammate Ostberg. WRC2 class leader Jan Kopecky also holds eighth place overall, ahead of 2016-spec Fiesta WRC driver Martin Prokop in ninth.
Ott Tanak finished Saturday in 10th place despite a late puncture forcing him to stop and change his front right tyre, with Friday retiree Andreas Mikkelsen also stopping early in the same stage.
Kopecky has an unassailable lead in WRC2, 3m09.4s ahead of second placed Nicolas Ciamin.
Italy WRC: Neuville eats into Ogier's lead
Latvala out of third place with mechanical problem