Andreas Mikkelsen won Sunday morning’s opening two speed tests at Rally Italia Sardegna in his quest to wrestle fourth place away from Elfyn Evans.
Stage info: SS16/17SS16:
SS16: Cala Flumini 1, 14.06km
Cala Flumini again opens Sunday’s action having twice formed the Power Stage. It begins on narrow hard-packed roads which are lined by stone walls. After a short asphalt stretch midway through, it turns towards the sea and becomes faster, before a tricky narrow section leading to the finish via a jump over a bridge.
SS17: Sassari - Argentiera 1, 6.89km
This spectacular test was first driven in 2016. After a bumpy but fast opening, it drops steeply downhill for the final 1.2km on sand alongside the sea, providing stunning views. It’s dusty throughout with tricky hairpins and hidden stones.
The Norwegian, driving a Hyundai i20, stopped the clocks two-tenths quicker than the Welshman in the opening Cala Flumini speed test. He then regained another 5.5sec in the following Sassari - Argentiera special stage.
His task was made harder as organisers this morning credited Evans with 7.0sec after the Ford Fiesta driver was trapped in the dust of Kris Meeke in last night’s second pass through Monte Lerno. Meeke restarted just in front of Evans after stopping to change a wheel.
Mikkelsen’s double reduced the deficit to 9.2sec with two stages remaining. “Everyone knows these stages pretty well so it's hard to make a huge difference, but we will try. It will be difficult. Let’s keep the pressure and we will see,” he said.
Evans confessed to a few issues in the tight hairpins of Sassari - Argentiera but was relaxed. “I didn’t take it too easy, but I didn’t take any risks either,” he said.
Elsewhere, the pace was relaxed as the time gaps separating the remaining frontrunners was such that they could measure their speed, and save their tyres for a full-out attack in the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage for bonus points.
Leader Ott Tänak was third in Cala Flumini and eighth in the following test in his Toyota Yaris, leaving his advantage over Dani Sordo at 28.7sec. The Spaniard held a 13.9sec margin over Teemu Suninen’s Ford Fiesta.
“It’s difficult in these kind of conditions. It’s never enjoyable when you have a big gap to manage. It needs a lot of focus,” said Tänak.