Sébastien Ogier claimed an early lead at Rally Italia Sardegna on Thursday night after heading a Citroën Racing 1-2 in the opening speed test.
Stage info: SS1
Ittiri Arena Show, 2.00km
Sardinia’s opener is identical to the stage used in 2018, held at a former motocross track just outside the village of the same name. Two cars at a time, starting a kilometre apart from each other, compete around two laps of the track on wide roads which include a jump and a watersplash.
The WRC leader defeated title rival Ott Tänak in the headline heat at the 2km fan-favourite Ittiri Arena speed test to edge team-mate Esapekka Lappi by a tenth of a second in the overnight standings,
“It’s better than nothing - every tenth counts!” Ogier said. “Tomorrow will be a different story starting first. I will push to do everything and hopefully after tomorrow night we can have an OK start position for the rest of the weekend.”
Lappi had earlier beaten Dani Sordo, driving a Hyundai i20, by almost two seconds to lead the rankings until he was usurped by his Citroen C3 colleague.
Tänak finished a further 0.2sec behind in his Toyota Yaris and a tenth clear of team-mate Kris Meeke, who beat Teemu Suninen’s Ford Fiesta by 1.2sec.
Meeke is eager to make up for his final day roll at the previous round in Portugal. “I enjoyed driving the car in Portugal, it seemed to work well in the slippery conditions. It’s even more slippery here, so I’m confident the car can do it,” he said.
Suninen and a tying Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans completed a top seven that was blanketed by 1.8sec.
Jari-Matti Latvala finished a lowly 10th following brake issues on his Yaris after exiting the watersplash.
The action gets hot and heavy on Friday with an opening leg north-east of the Alghero base covering 124.20km.
Tula (22.25km), regarded as the most difficult test of the weekend, and Castelsardo (14.72km) provide a fierce opening. They are followed by Tergu-Osilo (14.14km) and Monte Baranta (10.99km). All four are repeated in the afternoon following service.