The experienced Mikkelsen started the second leg in the Lombardy mountains above Bergamo with nearly a minute’s advantage over his fellow Scandinavian. A determined drive from Solberg slashed that to 14.3sec with Sunday’s short final leg remaining.
Mikkelsen ran as high as third in the overall standings and dominated the category on Friday’s speed tests at Monza race circuit. Solberg turned the tables today on snowy roads which caused havoc and was never out of the top three times.
“I know I said yesterday was a crazy day, but at times I think today has been even more crazy,” said Solberg. “We were all waiting for a lot of snow on the morning loop, but actually that wasn’t so bad. In the afternoon we only did the middle stage of the loop because the other two (SS10/12) were cancelled.”
On a day when the weather made selecting tyres a tricky art, Mikkelsen wasn’t happy with his selections and a broken gear lever inside his Fabia provided a further distraction.
Jari Huttunen was third in a Hyundai i20 and that would be sufficient for the Finn to claim the world title if he stays there during Sunday’s final three stages at Monza. He is 34.0sec adrift of Solberg.
Emil Lindholm was almost half a minute back in fourth in another Fabia. An afternoon puncture dropped him behind Huttunen, but such was the pace of the leading quarter that all four were inside the top 10 overall.
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Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz was fifth with current points leader Marco Bulacia rounding off the top half dozen. The young Bolivian lost time after stopping to change a puncture near the start of SS11.
Home hero and birthday boy Umberto Scandola bounced back from an early retirement on Friday to win two stages in his i20.