Saturday | 11 Jun 2016

SS12: Latvala closes on Italy leader Neuville

Thierry Neuville led Rally Italia Sardegna following Saturday morning’s three speed tests but Jari-Matti Latvala slashed the margin between the pair in the daunting Monte Lerno special stage.

Stage info: SS12

Monte Lerno 1, 44.26km
The rally’s longest stage is a mix of new roads, those used in the opposite direction to last year and about 22km of tracks run in the same formation. But it is all about the famous Micky’s Jump at 21.70km, one of the WRC’s most iconic locations at which cars fly high as the road literally drops away beneath them. The surface ranges from smooth to rough to sandy to concrete. Likely to be the key stage of the event.

Neuville complained of handling issues at the rear of his Hyundai i20 and yielded almost seven seconds to the Finn, leaving the gap at 2.9sec as drivers returned to service.

“I had problems keeping the car in the clean line and maybe towards the end I was slightly too careful. I can’t do much more,” said a deflated Neuville after the 44.26km marathon.

Latvala was second fastest, the Finn happy with his option of hard compound rubber at the front and soft at the rear of his Volkswagen Polo R.

The battle for third intensified with Sébastien Ogier, Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen covered by 3.2sec. Road opener Ogier conceded nearly 15sec as he swept the loose gravel from the surface, while Østberg leapfrogged Mikkelsen into fourth and moved to within 0.3sec of the championship leader.

Østberg won the stage and credited a late change of mind over tyres. After seeing Ogier opt for soft compound rubber, the Norwegian quickly abandoned his plan to do the same and fitted hard rubber to the front of his Ford Fiesta RS.

Dani Sordo regretted choosing soft rubber for his Hyundai i20 but retained sixth, more than a minute clear of Ott Tänak’s Fiesta RS, with Henning Solberg a further minute back in eighth in a similar car.

The rest of the leaderboard was unconfirmed as several drivers were delayed following an accident involving Lorenzo Bertelli’s Fiesta RS. Co-driver Simone Scattolin was taken to hospital for precautionary checks.

Kevin Abbring dropped more than seven minutes after a double puncture in his i20 while WRC 2 leader Esapekka Lappi went off 3km after the start and retired.

Head to WRC+ to see the latest onboard and video reports from Rally Italia Sardegna

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