Friday in Italy: Sordo claims first leg lead
Tough day for title challengers Ogier and Neuville
Coiluna - Loelle 1, 14.97km
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. Minor changes to 2018’s route.
The Estonian won the 14.97km Coiluna - Loelle test by 6.5sec in his Toyota Yaris from overnight leader Dani Sordo. That was enough to demote Teemu Suninen, who was a further half second back, to third place and reduce Sordo’s advantage to 4.7sec.
Tänak’s option of Michelin’s mixed medium and hard compound tyres worked perfectly on the sandy roads. “Two years ago I used the same tyre package so I think everything will be OK. The next stages have always been very slippery in the past,” he explained.
Both Sordo, driving a Hyundai i20, and Suninen, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta, chose hard tyres, with an eye on the harder surfaces expected in the next two tests.
“It was really slippery so with hard tyres there was no traction at all. It was difficult to manage the car,” said Sordo.
Fourth fastest time for Elfyn Evans was sufficient for the Welshman to move ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen into fourth place. The Fiesta driver was 0.3sec quicker than the Norwegian’s i20 to move ahead by two-tenths of a second.
Sébastien Ogier, who was due to start first in the order following yesterday’s retirement, deliberately incurred time penalties in a bid to find improved grip.
With no prospect of a good result after his crash, he checked in late at the stage start to benefit from cleaner roads, picking up a 70sec penalty for his troubles.