Thierry Neuville outpaced closest rival Jari-Matti Latvala in Sunday morning’s opening two speed tests at Rally Italia Sardegna, prompting the Finn to concede defeat in this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
Stage info: SS!6/17
SS16: Cala Flumini 1, 14.06km
Cala Flumini has formed the Power Stage for the last two seasons but opens Sunday’s action this year. It begins with a new 3.50km section on smooth roads which are lined by stone walls before reverting to the familiar route. 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, 6.07km
New for 2016, this spectacular test ends with the final 1.2km next to the beach, providing stunning views. It’s dusty with tricky hairpins and hidden stones.
Neuville won the opening Cala Flumini test by 3.1sec in his Hyundai i20 from Latvala. He gained another fourth-tenths of a second in the following special stage from Sassari to Argentiera to increase the lead to 19.4sec with only a repeat of the two tests remaining.
“I tried to have a clean and proper run and it’s a good start to the day,” said Neuville. “When everything is balanced with the car it’s fun and I’m enjoying it.”
Volkswagen Polo R pilot Latvala admitted the gap was now too big. “I have no chance to catch Thierry unless he makes a mistake. I lost three seconds in the first stage and the gap is nearly 20sec, so I’m trying to find a comfortable rhythm and not taking big risks,” he said.
Third placed Sébastien Ogier overshot a junction in Cala Flumini while the man behind him in fourth, Dani Sordo, did the same in the next test.
Eric Camilli overhauled Henning Solberg for sixth in the opener and celebrated by setting the first fastest time of his career in the next test. The Frenchman feared he had a problem after stopping between the flying finish and the stop line but his M-Sport team confirmed all was well with the Ford Fiesta RS.
Solberg struggled with broken suspension at the rear of his similar car while Kevin Abbring stopped briefly after his i20 refused to downshift.