Eight-time World Rally champion Sébastien Ogier was left to rue an incorrect tire call and setup direction on Friday afternoon of Rally Italy Sardinia that cost him the lead to Esapekka Lappi.
Lappi grabbed the lead of the event after Thursday’s super-special, but was soon engaged in an epic battle with Ogier on Friday morning as first Ogier took the lead by 0.4 seconds, then Lappi took it back by the same margin.
However an epic run from Ogier on the daunting 30 mile Monte Lerno – Sa Conchedda test earned him a 16.3s advantage which many had assumed he would protect in the afternoon.
But across the entire second loop Lappi was faster than Ogier, stealing an impressive 7.6s on the first stage out of service and eventually doing enough to leap ahead by just 0.1s overnight.
With the benefit of hindsight, Ogier feels he and Toyota made the wrong call as he took a mix of three soft and three hard compound Pirellis, while Lappi and Hyundai were braver with just four softs and one hard.
Given the tricky conditions Ogier said he was “glad” to be where he is but said the first loop was “obviously” better than the second.
“Overall driving I was quite happy with my day and it’s been good. We had a good speed this morning, this afternoon in these tricky conditions I was a bit more on the safe side,” he explained to DirtFish.
“But the main issue is more with the decision we took at service midday. We had the wrong tire call, wrong weather information obviously and then wrong tire call.
“Wrong setups, so it just affected me a little bit this afternoon but that’s more the part I’m not so happy with today.
“But yeah for the rest, I am where I want to be in the fight for the win.”
When it was pointed out to Ogier that it’s unusual for him to get those calls wrong, he pointed to the challenge thrown up by the unpredictable weather.
“Normally I think I have a good feeling for the tire choices, it’s true. But here, it’s very unpredictable weather so it’s difficult and I think of course the Hyundai’s choice was a bit more aggressive in the afternoon, only one spare as well in more rough conditions, it’s always more brave with the risk of punctures as well,” Ogier added.
“But yeah, it happens. Good talk with my engineer, make the things right for tomorrow again and restart where we want to be.”
Lappi, who said pre-event that his “minimum” target for all gravel events now should be a podium, is feeling very comfortable aboard his i20 N Rally1.
“The setup is good,” he told DirtFish.
“I really can, especially when it’s really rough, now I can drive this car like I should. So this is good.”
Naturally, he was pleased to recover the time he lost to Ogier in the morning throughout the afternoon, too.
“Yeah, that’s good,” Lappi said. “But I think still the first stage after the service was the most amazing one. I don’t know where I pulled that amount of time.
“It’s a crazy amount in such a small stage. But it didn’t feel like a crazy drive, maybe it was just so efficient.”