Saturday | 11 Jun 2016

SS13/14: Neuville regains Sardinia advantage

Thierry Neuville stretched his Rally Italia Sardegna advantage through Saturday afternoon’s opening two speed tests as heavy rain added an extra dimension to this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Stage info: SS13/14

SS13: Monti di Ala’ 2, 22.20km
Saturday afternoon’s opener is the only stage that is unchanged from last year. It begins with an 8km section that was introduced for the first time in 2015 before continuing on roads that have been driven in both directions previously. Much of the test is within a wind farm and twists across a hillside via fast corners. It reverts to man-made roads before a fast section to the finish. Drivers must keep an eye out for wild animals which roam throughout.

SS14: Coiluna - Loelle 2, 22.39km
A classic test, most of which is run to the same format as 2015. After passing a small lake near the start, it becomes fast as it winds through the valleys, with plenty of loose rocks on the road. After the big Rino’s Jump, drivers enter a tricky forested section with hidden rocks and bumps. It crosses Buddusò motocross track before the fan-favourite Nuraghe Loelle hairpin leads to a more open final 10km.

Jari-Matti Latvala reduced the Belgian’s lead to 2.9sec this morning, but Neuville delivered a crushing win in the second pass of Monti di Ala’ to open the advantage to 13.7sec in his Hyundai i20.

Latvala bounced back to win the following test from Coiluna to Loelle by eight-tenths of a second in his Volkswagen Polo R, leaving the margin at 12.9sec heading into the repeat of the marathon Monte Lerno.

“I started the second test under heavy rain for the opening 6-7km and it was very tricky,” said Neuville. “I tried to run out of the ruts to avoid the water and I did quite well, but could have done better. I limited the damage because I expected to lose more.”

Latvala was also troubled by rain at the start but the Finn admitted he was too cautious in the previous test. “The stage had a lot of rocks and I wanted to be careful, but maybe I was too careful,” he explained.

Sébastien Ogier was third in both tests to retain third in the standings but the Frenchman was concerned. “I have a problem with the car. The rear was unstable, it may be something from the differential. I tried to fight hard but it was uncomfortable to drive,” he said.

Ogier was 9.6sec clear of Mads Østberg but the three-car fight for third went down to two as Andreas Mikkelsen (above) retired his Polo R after crashing into a rock and breaking a track control arm. He earlier received a 10sec penalty after leaving service late when a sensor change took longer than expected.

Ott Tänak punctured his Ford Fiesta’s front left tyre in Monti di Ala’ but the Estonian was up to sixth after Mikkelsen’s demise.

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

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