Fri 31 May 2024

Ogier stars to lead Rally Italia Sardegna on Friday

Sébastien Ogier delivered a near-perfect performance to lead Hyundai Motorsport rival Ott Tänak after Friday’s all-action opening leg at Rally Italia Sardegna.

Ogier capitalised on the increased traction offered by his late starting position to win two of the four sun-kissed gravel speed tests in his Toyota GR Yaris, opening an early 4.5sec advantage over i20 N driver Tänak in this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship.

The Frenchman’s only blot on the day was an overly cautious first drive through Sedini-Castelsardo, where he yielded 5.9sec to Tänak whilst trying to conserve tyres. In the end, Pirelli’s hard compound rubber stood up to the test of the Mediterranean holiday island’s high heats and rocky roads.

"It's good,” smiled Ogier. “It’s been extremely rough and demanding for the tyres and I am happy that we made it because it was challenging with only five tyres."

Tänak went fastest on SS2 and, despite losing hybrid boost on two occasions, second place overnight marks the Estonian’s strongest start to a rally so far this season.

His team-mate Dani Sordo completed the podium a hefty 28.7sec behind, grabbing the position when M-Sport Ford Puma hotshot Adrien Fourmaux suffered a tyre delamination on SS3. Fourmaux later retired with an electrical issue.

While fourth went the way of Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta, it was a testing afternoon for championship frontrunners Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans, who held fifth and sixth respectively after starting first and second on the sandy roads where grip was at its lowest.

A leaking tyre on his GR Yaris during SS1 only compounded Evans’ frustrations and he ended the day almost one minute adrift of the lead.

“That has definitely been the hardest day you could imagine to open the road on in Sardinia,” exhaled Hyundai star Neuville, who headed Evans by 24 points in the drivers’ standings before this round. “A tough day for us, but [we will] carry on.”

Grégoire Munster trailed Evans by 11.9sec in seventh overall while Sami Pajari led the WRC2 category as well as holding eighth.

Saturday is the longest leg with 149km of competition and no opportunity for midday service. The morning features double runs of Tempio Pausania and Tula, while the afternoon includes stages in the Monte Lerno area with the breathtaking Micky’s Jump.

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM