Pierre-Louis Loubet has avoided retirement from Rally Italy Sardinia after he looked to be out with a mechanical problem at the start of the fifth special stage, but has incurred a three-minute time penalty.
Loubet headed into Friday afternoon third overall but looked to have lost it when his Ford Puma Rally1 appeared to be stuck in gear within the stage-start time control.
That caused Loubet to miss his start time, however the cancelation of the test saved his bacon. Loubet managed to get the car going and drove the stage at road speed, and re-joined the rally as normal, albeit behind Sordo, in the running order.
The Frenchman set the sixth fastest time on the stage, but wasn’t giving much away.
“Difficult,” he said. “We try to fix the car.”
He has however been given a three-minute time penalty in accordance with Article 48.4.1 of the WRC’s sporting regulations which states: “In the event of a start delayed through a fault of the crew, the marshal will enter a new time on the time card, the penalty then being 1 minute per minute or fraction of a minute late.”
Out front, Esapekka Lappi nibbled another couple of seconds out of Sébastien Ogier’s lead to trail by 6.7s overall heading onto the long 30-miler again this afternoon.
“Everything seems to be good,” Lappi commented.
Thierry Neuville reported he was carrying a small issue at the end of the previous stage, but it’s done little to slow down his pace as he vaulted past Elfyn Evans overall – and by an impressive seven seconds.
“Happy with the drive but still the same problem as the previous stage, so I’m fighting like hell,” Neuville said, before letting some detail slip.
“I just struggle with the handbrake, it’s not working but sometimes it does so it’s difficult to rely on it.”
Takamoto Katsuta backed off on SS5 but found some good pace on SS6 to be the fastest Toyota on the stage, trailing Evans now by just 1.8s overall.
Some 12.2s behind Evans, Ott Tänak has continued to pull clear of world championship rival Kalle Rovanperä, outpacing the Finn by 2.9s to lead him by 9.2s overall.
Rovanperä is 54.9s off the lead.