Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville’s thrilling battle for second place on Rally Italy will go down to the powerstage, but just 10.9 seconds separates Dani Sordo and third placed Neuville.
Ironically, Neuville beat Ogier on SS14 by the exact same 1.6s margin that Ogier beat Neuville by in SS15, meaning the gap is now 1.7s with that final points-paying stage to go.
“It was a good one, but one more to go,” said Ogier, pleased with his time.
Rally leader Sordo lost a huge 12.1s on the first pass of the Cala Flumini stage to see his lead significantly reduced, but by beating Ogier on SS14 he got the gap back up to 16.1s.
He lost time again on the second pass to the tune of 6.9s, meaning his rally lead stands at just 9.2s with one stage to go.
“I don’t understand the times, they are really, really fast in this stage. I’m really surprised,” Sordo said, adding that his lead is “never safe”.
Like Sordo who he was battling for the lead with on Friday, M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen also dropped a lot of time on the first pass of this stage. It all but ruined any hopes he had of challenging WRC points leader Elfyn Evans for fourth place.
The repeat pass was stronger however as he actually beat Evans this time around by 3.2s. The two are steady in their positions though, with Evans’ Toyota still 29.8s ahead of Suninen’s Ford.
“Obviously we had to keep Teemu behind, that seemed like that worked out this morning barring any mistakes so we just tried to be clean and get through,” Evans admitted.
Ott Tänak (sixth) managed the fourth fastest time on the penultimate stage – 9.7s down on the quickest – as he now turns his attentions to the powerstage, bidding to recover as many points as possible from a disappointing weekend.
“Let’s see, it’s powerstage now so for sure we need to drive well,” he said.
Pierre-Louis Loubet made it through Cala Flumini 2 unscathed to hold seventh, as did Gus Greensmith despite “a small technical issue”, potentially with the gearbox, that he suspected was “nothing serious”.
Jari Huttunen continues to hold eighth overall but is now looking safe there, as WRC3 rival Kajetan Kajetanowicz shipped 1m06s on SS15. The Pole had started the stage just 5.5s behind Huttunen, meaning Huttunen now enjoys a comfortable 1m11.5s advantage with just one stage remaining.
1 Ogier (Toyota) 8m23.2s
2 Neuville (Hyundai) +1.6s
3 Sordo (Hyundai) +6.9s
4 Tänak (Hyundai) +9.7s
5 Suninen (M-Sport) +11.3s
6 Evans (Toyota) +14.5s
Leading positions after SS15
1 Sordo (Hyundai) 2h36m45.3s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +9.2s
3 Neuville (Hyundai) +10.9s
4 Evans (Toyota) +1m03.5s
5 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +1m33.3s
6 Tänak (Hyundai) +2m34.0s
7 Loubet (2C Competition Hyundai) +4m37.0s
8 Huttunen (Hyundai) +8m14.6s
9 Kajetanowicz (Škoda) +9m26.1s
10 Tidemand (Škoda) +9m57.0s