Visibility problems hampered Ott Tänak’s push for a maiden WRC victory at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday morning.
Stage info: SS16/17
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, 6.96km
This spectacular test was first driven in 2016. It has a new beginning this year before reverting to its familiar route. 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.
A hole in his Ford Fiesta allowed dust into the cockpit. With his view severely reduced, Tänak overshot a junction in the opening Cala Flumini speed test and his car slithered into roadside bushes.
The Estonian dropped 5.5sec to a charging Jari-Matti Latvala, who cut his deficit to 18.8sec.
However, Latvala stalled the engine of his Toyota Yaris in the following Sassari - Argentiera special stage and Tänak breathed a sigh of relief as his lead climbed to 25.5sec with two more tests remaining.
“I have no visibility in the car,” said Tänak. “There’s massive, mega, mega dust in the car. I overshot a junction in the first stage because I couldn’t see anything. It’s OK. I will try to fix it now, I haven’t found the hole yet.”
Latvala appeared to concede defeat after his error. “I stalled. There was a big, big rut that I didn’t expect to see. I tried to find the start button but pushed the stop button first. I lost about 5sec. At least I tried, now we can slow down,” said the Finn.
Thierry Neuville and Esapekka Lappi retained third and fourth in a Hyundai i20 and Yaris respectively, but fifth-placed Juho Hänninen was worried about a possible power steering problem in his Yaris. He held a 24.8sec advantage over Sébastien Ogier in sixth.
Hayden Paddon stopped the clocks quickest in Cala Flumini, 0.9sec ahead of Latvala with Craig Breen’s Citroën C3 in third. Dani Sordo won the next test in his i20, the Spaniard 7.5sec clear of Neuville.
Andreas Mikkelsen received a 60sec penalty after checking in early at the start of SS17 but the Norwegian remained eighth in his C3.