Hayden Paddon completed a dramatic Saturday morning with his overnight Rally Italia Sardegna lead intact - while all hell let loose behind him on the leaderboard.
Stage info: SS11/12
SS11: Monti di Ala’ 1, 28.52km
Monti di Ala’ mixes old and new sections, with several parts driven in the opposite direction to 2016. Much of the test lies within a wind farm and roads twist across a hillside via fast corners, although there is a series of hairpins just after the midpoint. The surface is a blend of sandy gravel, rocks and, surprisingly, even a muddy section after 10km.
SS12: Monte Lerno 1, 28.11km
Monte Lerno is all about the famous Micky’s Jump at 4.61km, one of the WRC’s iconic locations at which cars fly high as the road literally drops away beneath them. Before that, drivers negotiate a tricky corner alongside a lake where Lorenzo Bertelli rolled 12 months ago. The roads are mainly wide, although the final few kilometres contain narrow, bumpy and rough parts. Likely to be one of the key stages.
He finished second in both the Monti di Ala’ and Monte Lerno speed tests to return to Alghero for mid-leg service with a 9.4sec advantage in his Hyundai i20.
“I changed the tyres around and struggled with the balance in the first one,” he said. “In the next one, the first half felt good. We made a couple of changes before the start and maybe our tyre choice was too aggressive. The car was trying to put me into the trees so we had to take it back a notch,” he said.
His closest pursuer was Ott Tänak. Thierry Neuville lost a minute and second place in Monte Lerno with brake problems in his i20. “We had no brakes from the start. I lost them 200 metres from the end of the previous stage,” said the Belgian, who slipped to fourth.
Tänak won Monte Lerno but also had brake troubles in his Ford Fiesta. The Estonian was 13.8sec ahead of an angry Jari-Matti Latvala, who was held up by a delayed Mads Østberg.
“I’ve been driving in his dust. If I don’t get the time back here, when I’m in his dust and fighting so hard, I will stop this sport,” said the frustrated Finn, whose Toyota Yaris was 47.5sec clear of Neuville.
Juho Hänninen was fifth in his Yaris, 24.8sec ahead of team-mate Esapekka Lappi, who was cautious in the slippery conditions.
Sébastien Ogier demoted Hänninen in Monte di Ala’, but the Frenchman fell behind both Toyota drivers after losing nearly two minutes changing a front left puncture in his Fiesta in Monte Lerno.
Ogier headed Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen, who were similarly delayed by front and rear punctures respectively. Østberg enjoyed compensation by topping the World Rally Car high-fliers at the famous Micky’s Jump. He leapt 22m, a metre more than Tänak. Eric Camilli’s Fiesta R5 completed the leaderboard.
Dani Sordo lost the use of the paddle shift mechanism to change down in his i20, an issue he also had yesterday, while Craig Breen struggled in his Citroën C3. He stalled in Monti di Ala’ and drove the next test at ‘more or less road speed’ with transmission problems.
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