Sat 01 Jun 2024

Tänak grabs Italy lead as tyre decision hinders Ogier

Ott Tänak came out on top of a seesaw battle with overnight frontrunner Sébastien Ogier on Saturday morning to lead Rally Italia Sardegna by 3.5sec at the day’s midpoint.

In a breathless first half to the penultimate day of this sixth FIA World Rally Championship round of the season, Tänak and Ogier traded positions no less than three times in four stages. Ultimately, it was bad luck on Ogier’s part which helped the Estonian rise to the fore.

Ogier’s decision to carry only one spare wheel aboard his Toyota GR Yaris backfired when he suffered a deflation on the first stage at Tempio Pausania. That forced the Frenchman to complete the remaining three tests using the same four tyres - a monumental task given the abrasive and increasingly rough road surface.

Hyundai driver Tänak was far better equipped with his selection of six Pirellis and won the final two stages, but Ogier remained hot on his heels despite cautiously having to avoid further tyre damage and dealing with heavily worn rubber.

“It’s like driving without power steering and the car is so, so difficult to drive,” Tänak said of the rough conditions in Tula 2. “I am quite exhausted at the moment.”

Ogier agreed, adding: “It's been a tough loop, and this last stage I have never seen so rough.”

There was almost double delight for Hyundai after Thierry Neuville surged from fifth to third, but the championship leader’s day came to an early end when he overcooked a right-hander in the finale and slid his i20 N car wide down a bank.

Neuville’s demise elevated Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta to third overall. The Japanese driver had already overtaken Dani Sordo on SS6, and he completed the loop 17.1sec clear of the Hyundai-driving Spaniard.

Second in the points before this round, Elfyn Evans trailed Sordo by 23.0sec in fifth. The Welshman struggled to find a positive feeling inside his Toyota and completed SS8 with his car’s front right tyre pushed off the wheel rim.

WRC2 leader Sami Pajari was a mighty sixth overall in his Rally2-specification Toyota. Behind the Finn were Grégoire Munster, Jan Solans, Nikolay Gryazin and Martin Prokop.

Latvia
Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Italy
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 8:30:00 AM
Hungary
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 9:30:00 AM