Dani Sordo has responded to Sébastien Ogier in the battle for the lead of the Monza Rally, taking the SS8 stage win by 0.4 seconds over Elfyn Evans to reclaim the rally lead.
At 6.89 miles, SS8 Gerosa is just under half the length of the Selvino stage that kickstarted the morning and proved to be less of a challenge with no slushy or deceptive sections.
However, ousted rally leader Ogier confessed he was “much too cautious” as he could only manage the eighth-fastest time – quicker only than Ole Christian Veiby in the Rally1 class.
“It’s not a good time but a long way still,” was Ogier’s response.
The rally win is vital for his world championship aspirations, with Evans up in third place, so a big response is expected.
Sordo was naturally far happier.
“Honestly it was really nice,” said Sordo, who is now 2.2s up on Ogier in the overall classification.
“I really like to drive the car with these tires in this condition, I really feel the car.
“This stage was a little bit nicer, now we are waiting for the next which will be more tricky. There I am not [expecting to be] so strong but I will try to put all my effort.”
Evans “wasn’t super happy with my stage” and “felt I could’ve carried a bit more speed in a few places” but it turned out to be a strong run for the points leader.
He is now 10.2s adrift of the lead and 8s behind his title rival and team-mate Ogier.
Ott Tänak is up to fourth overall ahead of Esapekka Lappi, outpacing the M-Sport Ford driver by 2.4s on Gerosa, but was not entirely happy either as he dropped another 1.1s to Evans.
“I’m trying to go as fast as I can where I feel safe,” said Tänak. “The car is quite aggressive and it’s hard to feel confident but I try my best.”
A bemused Lappi added: “I don’t know why, it feels I can’t get the tires up to temperature but when I get, it starts to be OK.”
Veiby suffered a heart-stopping moment when he out-braked himself for a junction and slid into a grass field. As he steered his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC back onto the road, the car was tipped into a spin due to the slippery conditions and the elevation difference between the field and the road.
Eventually he got it pointed the right way, but the misdemeanor cost him over three minutes.
“I braked just a little bit too late and was just going to take the easy way around just not to hit anything but this field was the biggest mud place anywhere so I was stuck there for a while,” Veiby said.
Such was the delay, sixth placed Kalle Rovanperä reached the end of the stage before Veiby. But Rovanperä was not totally out of the wars either, carrying damage as a legacy of his brush with the scenery on the previous stage.
“The alignment is not so good because the car does not go straight,” he confirmed. Rovanperä lost 3.8s to Tänak ahead to trail by 20.8s.
Veiby’s issue dropped him well outside the top 10, which now features four Rally2 cars.
WRC3 leader Andreas Mikkelsen continues to head the pack in seventh overall, 33.6s ahead of his Eurosol team-mate Emil Lindholm, but Oliver Solberg is catching them both and is 7.1s behind Lindholm.
WRC2 leader Adrien Fourmaux is now 10th overall.
1 Sordo (Hyundai) 7m05s
2 Evans (Toyota) +0.4s
3 Tänak (Hyundai) +1.5s
4 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +3.9s
5 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +4.3s
6 Katsuta (Toyota) +4.7s
Leading positions after SS8
1 Sordo (Hyundai) 1h18m53s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +2.2s
3 Evans (Toyota) +10.2s
4 Tänak (Hyundai) +13.7s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +14.4s
6 Rovanperä (Toyota) +34.5s
7 Mikkelsen (Škoda) +2m01.1s
8 Lindholm (Škoda) +2m34.7s
9 Solberg (Škoda) +2m41.8s
10 Fourmaux (M-Sport Ford) +2m45.3s