Friday | 10 Jun 2016

SS5: Neuville hits front in Italy

Consecutive stage wins propelled Thierry Neuville into the lead of Rally Italia Sardegna as drivers returned to Alghero for service after Friday morning’s four speed tests.

Stage info: SS$ / SS5

SS4: Castelsardo 1, 14.02km
After an opening 4.50km across open moorland, Castelsardo switches from gravel to asphalt for 1.50km midway through. After a series of dips and compressions, the test changes character after a tunnel which links to a new road. A steep uphill climb through hairpin bends on a stony road, which will be hard on tyres and transmission, leads to the final section.

SS5: Tergu - Osilo 1, 14.91km
Back after a year’s absence, this test is wide and smooth the whole way through. After a steady climb for the opening 5km, it descends gently to the finish via several barriered bridges. It’s a great drivers’ stage where keeping to the driving line is key.

He took advantage of cleaner roads lower down the start order to win both the Casterlsardo and Tergu - Osilo special stages in his Hyundai i20 to head Jari-Matti Latvala by 1.5sec.

The lead of this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship has changed hands after every stage so far. Latvala replaced series leader Sébastien Ogier at the front after Castelsardo before Neuville continued the merry-go-round.

The Belgian conceded a handful of seconds with a SS4 spin but was in high spirits after a tough start to the season. “Of course there is some road cleaning which we try to turn to our advantage. Apart from the spin I think we can be pleased with the morning,” he said.

Latvala was second in both tests and headed Volkswagen Polo R team-mate Ogier by 22.2sec, both pronouncing themselves happy with their contrasting tyre choices. Road opener Ogier’s gamble on soft tyres left them badly worn, but he was convinced he lost less time on the slippery dry roads than with harder rubber.

Mads Østberg appeared to have put his gearchange issues of previous rallies behind him to hold fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS, 1.8sec behind Ogier. Andreas Mikkelsen, who also gambled on soft rubber, was fifth with Dani Sordo completing the top six despite oversteer issues.

Henning Solberg was seventh, despite stopping twice in SS4, ahead of flying WRC 2 leader Teemu Suninen. Hayden Paddon and Ott Tänak completed the leaderboard.

Paddon spun in Castelsardo and then hit a wall as he turned around in thick dust. The impact bent a rear suspension link which he replaced before the next stage having dropped 45 sec. Estonian Tänak lost 40sec after completing SS5 with badly worn rubber.

Lorenzo Bertelli was on the verge of the top 10 until a rear differential problem and a rear puncture cost almost 90sec, while Kevin Abbring and Eric Camilli continued to struggle with a broken propshaft and broken rear differential respectively.

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

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