Ott Tänak has assumed the lead of Rally Italy, edging 0.9 seconds ahead of Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi as the lead pair pull away from the chasing pack.
A three-way lead battle was on the cards early on but Elfyn Evans hit a rock on the first pass of Monti di Ala e Budduso, breaking the sump guard and sending water temperatures dangerously high.
Evans retired on the road section before Terranova, leaving team-mate Lappi alone to take on the lead Hyundai.
Dani Sordo set the fastest time, but fellow i20 N Rally1 runner Tänak was only 0.9s slower and it was enough for the 2019 world champion to usurp Lappi for the rally lead he’d taken only one stage earlier.
That was despite a heavy landing over a jump, which ripped bodywork off the front-left corner of his Hyundai.
“There was a jump landing and it came full on the nose, so quite a big jump!” he remarked.
Lappi meanwhile reported no issues – he’d simply been bested on pace on the second pass of Terranova.
“All good. The others were better!” was the magnanimous self-analysis of his effort.
Pierre-Louis Loubet moved into the final podium position once again, taking a place back from fellow Ford Puma driver Craig Breen and inheriting another from Evans’ demise.
Breen had been setting strong split times but then overshot a junction, diving right to avoid hitting a haybale that delineated a left-right chicane, costing him around 10s.
That mistake also allowed the third M-Sport car of Adrien Fourmaux to close up, only 0.7s behind Breen in fifth.
After a tough morning where he dropped almost 15s with dust on the first run of Terranova, Thierry Neuville was much faster on the second run.
Hyundai’s leading light in the championship table made it a 1-2-3 on the stage timesheet, a good enough effort to overhaul Kalle Rovanperä for sixth in the rally classification too.
It was a messy run for Rovanperä, who had a big moment in between the trees. He ran wide on the exit of a medium left-right corner sequence, dipping the rear-left well off the road and ripping the rear spoiler off his GR Yaris.
He was lucky not to hit any of the trees lining the stages – yet was insistent that he’d been driving conservatively.
“I’m a bit afraid that I’m too careful now,” said Rovanperä. “I tried to avoid all the punctures and stuff. Some places are quite rough. Let’s see if that’s the right tactic or not.”
Sordo’s stage win puts him only 1.5s off Rovanperä in the fight for eighth, and Takamoto Katsuta is falling further backwards. WRC2 leader Andreas Mikkelsen occupies the final points position in 10th place.
1 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai) 9m08.3s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +0.9s
3 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +1.8s
4 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +2.6s
5 Esapekka Lappi/Jenne Ferm (Toyota) +3.7s
6 Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +4.1s
7 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +7.6s
8 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +9.5s
9 Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +10.9s
10 Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +12.4s
Leading positions after SS4
1 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) 36m15.8s
2 Lappi/Ferm (Toyota) +0.9s
3 Loubet/Landais (M-Sport Ford) +9.8s
4 Breen/Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +13.2s
5 Fourmaux/Coria (M-Sport Ford) +13.9s
6 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +17.7s
7 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +19.2s
8 Sordo/Carrera (Hyundai) +20.7s
9 Katsuta/Johnston (Toyota) +36.7s
10 Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +1m22.1s