With nine-time champion and team-mate Sebastien Loeb crashing out on Friday’s first stage, Hirvonen has been left to uphold Citroen honour with a faultless display behind the wheel of his DS3 WRC. “For sure I can just take it steady without having to push but it’s not easy because you have to keep the rhythm,” said the Finn, who has finished runner-up in Sardinia on five previous occasions.
Evgeny Novikov remains in a strong second place in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Russian was quickest on stage 10 but dropped a few seconds on stage 11 overshooting a corner and having to reverse. “I lost some time but it was nothing special,” he said. Team-mate Ott Tanak is third but slightly “nervous” about a possible electrical glitch: “There was a warning light, but I am not sure why,” he said.
Sebastien Ogier heads what has become a three-way battle for fourth place in his Volkswagen Motorsport Skoda Fabia Super 2000. The Frenchman, who is 3.3s in front of WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Chris Atkinson and 14.5s ahead of Adapta Fiesta pilot Mads Ostberg, bemoaned his decision to carry two spare tyres and fit a long-ratio gearbox to his car, which he said had cost him vital time. Ostberg, who targeted climbing from seventh to fourth at the start of the day following his delay on Friday, has gone fastest on two stages this morning and says he is ahead of schedule in his efforts to make up lost ground.
Andreas Mikkelsen is seventh with Martin Prokop overcoming a puncture to hold eighth. Fiesta S2000 runner Karl Kruuda is ninth with Petter Solberg, who restarted under Rally 2 rules following his off on Friday, completing the top 10 but lacking the incentive to push for stage wins. “I’m just driving for the fans,” he said.
Solberg, the 2003 world champion, is among a number of drivers who have restarted today after they failed to make it through Friday’s route. The list includes his factory Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville and WRC Team MINI Portugal’s Paulo Nobre.
Neuville, who is nursing second-degree burns to his hands, admitted to finding the slippery nature of the stages even more difficult by running third on the road behind Nobre and Italian Citroen privateer Luca Pedersoli.
Nicolas Fuchs continues to head the Production Car World Rally Championship section despite picking up a front-right puncture on stage 10. Marcos Ligato has his sights set on catching Valeriy Gorban for second but will be hopeful that there is no reoccurrence of the electrical glitch that left him stationary on stage 11 for more than 20 seconds. Subhan Aksa impressed by setting the PWRC pace on stage 10. The Indonesian is fourth in class.