SS10: First blood to Neuville

Thierry Neuville clawed back time on Rally Italia Sardegna leader Sébastien Ogier in Saturday morning’s opening speed test.

Stage info: SS10

Coiluna - Loelle 1, 14.95km
A classic test on sandy roads. After passing a small lake near the start, it becomes fast as it winds through tree-lined valleys, with plenty of loose rocks on the road. After the big Rino’s Jump at 2.68km, drivers enter a tricky section with hidden rocks and bumps. The stage features a loop of Buddusò motocross track before the fan-favourite Nuraghe Loelle hairpin just before the finish.

The Belgian stopped the clocks 1.2sec faster than a sleepy Ogier in the 14.95km Coiluna - Loelle to cut the deficit to 17.7sec after the first of three morning special stages.

In contrast to Friday, clear blue skies and warm sunshine greeted the crews as they left Alghero this morning, but the gravel tracks bore the remnants of yesterday’s thunderstorms.

A few patches of standing water loitered in dips and under the trees to focus drivers’ minds.

“Tricky conditions. There was a lot of standing water in some places. We tried to keep it on the road and go as fast as we can,” said Neuville, who was second fastest.

Ogier was unperturbed by his time loss. Asked if he was in a position to manage his pace, the Frenchman replied: “Controlling at this point of the rally is a bit early. It’s the first stage and I wasn’t quite sharp enough here.”

In the internal Toyota Gazoo fight for third, Esapekka Lappi closed the gap to fellow Finn Jari-Matti Latvala to 0.9sec. The pair were fifth and sixth fastest, but Lappi reclaimed 3.5sec from his Yaris colleague.

“One mistake at the end when we came off the rallycross track. It was so muddy there and we probably lost half a second or maybe a second,” explained Lappi.

Fastest time went to team-mate Ott Tänak, returning to action under Rally 2 regulations after his final stage retirement last night. He was quickest by 1.4sec.

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