Ogier back into lead as Evans slashes gap to Sordo

Monza Rally lead changes hand for third stage in a row on Saturday morning, with Evans now 0.8s from second place


The lead of the Monza Rally changed again as Sébastien Ogier retook first position from Dani Sordo on the Costa Valle Imagna stage, but Ogier cannot shake World Rally Championship title rival Elfyn Evans, who is just 7.5 seconds behind.

Ogier stole the lead from Sordo on Saturday’s first mountain stage but then immediately lost it on the next one; Sordo taking 5.8s from the Toyota driver to lead by 2.2s.

A second-quickest time for Ogier on SS9 – 0.5s shy of Evans’ benchmark – and just fifth fastest for Sordo, however, allowed Ogier to carve open a 6.7s advantage at the head of the field.

But Evans is also now just 0.8s behind Sordo, so is continuing to do what he needs to do to land a maiden world drivers’ title.

As things stand, Ogier is set to erode Evans’ points advantage by 10 points but has a 14-point deficit, meaning the title would be decided on Sunday’s points-paying powerstage.

Unlike the relatively dry Gerosa test that ran as Saturday’s second stage, the conditions on Costa Valle Imagna were more similar to that of Selvino earlier in the morning – with snow littering the sides of the road and the odd slush and ice patches lurking on higher ground.

The middle part of the stage was where it got tricky, and Ott Tänak – who is suspected to have fitted some snow tires to his Hyundai – took chunks of time out of the pack, only to lose it again on the final split when it dried up.


Photo: Hyundai Motorsport

Initially it looked like Evans would lose his third place to Tänak, but instead the points leader beat the reigning world champion by 4.7s to extend his advantage overall to 8.2s.

Esapekka Lappi – who was second overall after Friday’s stages – finds himself in fifth for M-Sport and was in the wars on Costa Valle Imagna, running wide on a hairpin and losing several seconds as his car was momentarily beached, struggling for traction on the loose snow.

Evans lost 6.8s to stage winner Evans, and could have troubled the frontrunners had he not made the error.

As it was, he lost another 2.1s to Tänak to lie 2.8s behind fourth place and 18.5s shy of the rally leader Ogier.

Kalle Rovanperä was cautious on SS9 and now finds himself in relative no man’s land on the leaderboard; 35.9s behind Lappi but over a minute clear of the Rally2 cars behind him that are filling out the top 10.

Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh at the start of Saturday in his Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo and clung onto the spot throughout Saturday morning, though his WRC3 lead was eroded. Oliver Solberg is now 29.9s behind in eighth overall after starting the day 53.7s back.

Mads Østberg assumed the lead of WRC2 from Adrien Fourmaux and is ninth overall – on course to win the WRC2 title – with Emil Lindholm third in WRC3 and 10th in the standings.

The same three stages will be repeated this afternoon before a final blast on the Grand Prix stage at the Monza circuit concludes Saturday’s action.

SS9 times

1 Evans (Toyota) 14m35.5s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +0.5s
3 Tänak (Hyundai) +4.7s
4 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +6.8s
5 Sordo (Hyundai) +9.4s
6 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +10.6s

Leading positions after SS9

1 Ogier (Toyota) 1h33m31.2s
2 Sordo (Hyundai) +6.7s
3 Evans (Toyota) +7.5s
4 Tänak (Hyundai) +15.7s
5 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +18.5s
6 Rovanperä (Toyota) +54.4s
7 Mikkelsen (Škoda) +2m33.8s
8 Solberg(Škoda) +3m03.7s
9 Østberg (Citroën) +3m13.6s
10 Lindholm (Škoda) +3m20.6s