Kalle Rovanperä held a slender lead in WRC 2 Pro at Rally Italia Sardegna after a thrilling battle with team-mate Jan Kopecký throughout Friday’s opening leg.
The teenage Finn ended a hot and dusty day with a 0.6sec advantage over his Skoda Motorsport colleague after the duo twice traded the lead in their Fabia R5 cars.
Rovanperä led this morning but was ill at ease with his car’s set-up and his Czech team-mate swept into a 7.4sec advantage at the midpoint.
A raft of changes in service transformed Rovanperä’s demeanour and he charged back into the lead this afternoon. In a final twist, Kopecký closed in once more in the final test to leave things wide open heading into Saturday’s longest leg of the rally.
Mads Østberg was third, but the Norwegian was almost 11 minutes adrift after hitting a stone in a dusty section and breaking his Citroën C3’s track control arm. He made roadside repairs and was fastest on five of the seven completed speed tests.
Gus Greensmith was second in a Ford Fiesta before plunging down a bank and into retirement.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was on course for a second consecutive win after building a comfortable lead in WRC 2. The Frenchman, who topped the category in Portugal earlier this month, held a 22.2sec advantage over Russia’s Nikolay Gryazin after leading throughout the day.
While Loubet enjoyed a relatively troublefree leg in his Skoda Fabia, Gryazin was hampered by punctures in his similar car. He overnighted with a 36.2sec margin over Takamoto Katsuta’s Ford Fiesta, the Japanese youngster overcoming a broken anti-roll bar.
Simone Tempestini was less than 10sec adrift in fourth, with Kajetan Kajetanowicz in fifth, despite a couple of punctures. Bolivian teenager Marquito Bulacia completed the top six.
Fabio Andolfi retired early after ripping a front wheel from his Fabia while Ole Christian Veiby’s challenge never got off the ground. He dropped 10 minutes with broken suspension on his Volkswagen Polo in last night’s curtain raiser and lost more time with a puncture this morning.