Hayden Paddon maintained the lead of Rally Italia Sardegna on Friday afternoon despite concerns over suspension damage to his Hyundai i20.
Stage info: SS6/7
SS6: Terranova 2, 14.54km
Terranova returns for the first time since 2014, but in a revised format. It’s narrow and technical with a sandy surface that will cut up and become rough. After a short asphalt section at the start, the roads are quite wide initially, before narrowing approaching the 5km mark. The second half dives into the trees, with a fast and technical finale.
SS7: Monte Olia 2, 19.05km
Like the nearby opener, Monte Olia is driven for the first time in three years. It’s a difficult test, with tricky downhill braking shortly before the midpoint and awkward crests located in the middle of corners in the second half. The surface is sandy in places but rocky in others.
The New Zealander was second in the repeat pass of the Terranova speed test to extend his advantage over Juho Hänninen to 5.6sec. Despite losing only 1.1sec to the Finn in Monte Olia, Paddon was concerned about the health of his car.
“The balance didn’t feel good, I think we’ve broken the front left damper,” he said. “It was really difficult on the hard tyres. The first stage felt quite nice and we looked after the tyres.”
Hänninen narrowed the gap to 4.5sec but didn’t enjoy the rough and rutted roads in his Toyota Yaris.
Team-mate Esapekka Lappi had no such concerns and won both stages to add to his victory in this morning’s final test.
“The set-up now is perfect. This morning we were trying some development dampers. We changed the set up in service and it’s good now,” said Lappi, who also had a new gearbox fitted after losing second gear.
Mads Østberg retained third in his Ford Fiesta, despite eighth fastest time in each stage. With temperatures topping 30°C, the Norwegian regretted being the only driver to gamble on mixing soft and hard compound Michelin tyres. “The softs weren’t working,” he admitted.
Thierry Neuville moved level with Ott Tänak in fourth after top four times in both stages. He finished Monte Olia with a rear right puncture in his Hyundai i20 and a chunk of rubber missing from the rear left. The Belgian has just one spare, so caution is the watchword.
Tänak was unhappy with the balance of his Fiesta, a trait the Estonian attributed to carrying two spare wheels. Andreas Mikkelsen dropped more than 30sec after stalling his Citroën C3 three times in Terranova and twice in Monte Olia.
Dani Sordo was in worse trouble. His morning turbo problems were not cured and he dropped more than 11min in the two stages.
Kris Meeke failed to restart this afternoon following his crash. His Citroën C3’s roll cage was too damaged.
SS4/5: Meeke rolls out of lead
Paddon moves ahead in Sardinia
SS2/3: Hänninen moves ahead
Finn edges Meeke for Sardinia lead
SS1: Neuville wins Italy opener
Belgian edges out championship leader Ogier