Andreas Mikkelsen’s WRC2 title defence took another blow on Rally Italy, as he retired from the lead on a second consecutive World Rally Championship event.
After two wins in a row on Monte Carlo and Sweden, Mikkelsen had led again on Rally Portugal, only for the engine in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo to fail and force him to retire in the service park.
Mikkelsen was leading again in Sardinia, with three stages wins on Friday enough to give him a stable 15.8s lead heading into Saturday’s stages.
That gap had climbed to 25.5s until disaster struck on the rerun of Erula-Tula, as Mikkelsen retired in the early portion of the test.
The cause of his stoppage? A second consecutive engine problem. DirtFish understands that it was a repeat of the same failure that halted his progress in Portugal.
A second retirement in a row represents a missed opportunity to comfortable retake the lead of the WRC2 championship standings, as two key title rivals had themselves dropped out on Friday.
Sedini-Castelsardo on Friday afternoon had claimed both current points lead Yohan Rossel and Hyundai’s factory contender for the WRC2 title, Teemu Suninen.
Rossel crashed out from second place, having been Mikkelsen’s closest rival for most of the first full day of Rally Italy action, while Suninen broke the rear suspension on his i20 N Rally2 and had to retire on the road section after the finish.
Nikolay Gryazin now holds the lead in WRC2 by a somewhat comfortable margin of 27.1s. His nearest rival, Jari Huttunen in a Ford Fiesta Rally2, also hit trouble on Erula-Tula, dropping over 40 seconds and falling from second to fifth in class.
That promoted Jan Solans to second, though he will be more interested in who’s behind him than in front: Marco Bulacia is only 5.4s behind in the second Toksport Škoda.
WRC2 Junior points leader Chris Ingram is also very much in the running for second place, with only 12s in arrears to Solans.
Georg Linnamäe had been battling Eerik Pietarinen hard for ninth place, the pair separated by one second after the first pass of Erula-Tula.
But he pushed too hard on the next stage, crashing into a tree and triggering a red flag. Both he and co-driver James Morgan were OK – his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 was not.