Hayden Paddon increased his Rally Italia Sardegna lead early on Saturday morning as hanging dust posed major problems in the still morning air.
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 Hyundai i20 driver won the 14.95km test from Coiluna to Loelle by 4.0sec from Jari-Matti Latvala to stretch his advantage over team-mate Thierry Neuville to 13.1sec. While many complained about the conditions, Paddon took a more measured view.
“It’s very dusty but it’s the same for everyone. You just have to use it as an opportunity to push on. I enjoy it. It’s not easy and it feels uncomfortable, but it’s what rallying is about sometimes. That how the sport is, it’s about challenges that aren’t easy. It’s part of the game,” he said.
It was an impressive opening from the Kiwi, especially as the following four cars were covered by less than a second. Latvala was followed by Ott Tänak, who complained of understeer in his Ford Fiesta, with Craig Breen and a frustrated Thierry Neuville next.
Tänak closed to with 0.6sec of second-placed Neuville in the overall standings, with Latvala only a tenth of a second behind in fourth.
“The dust made things difficult but overall I’m happy with how it went. It’s not easy facing a wall of dust, you have to trust your pace notes completely,” said Latvala.
Mads Østberg reported that the road surface was already breaking up and becoming rocky, while set-up changes to his Citroën C3 made its handling more to Andreas Mikkelsen’s liking.