After inheriting the lead on the previous stage when Ott Tänak retired, Sébastien Ogier has duly gone fastest on the first test of Saturday afternoon to extend his Rally Italy lead over Dani Sordo.
Ogier admitted he “was not really [on] a push, it was a clean drive” but still managed to go 3.8 seconds quicker than Sordo who was second-fastest, bumping his lead up to 21.3s.
Sordo managed to pull a little further away from third-placed Elfyn Evans, beating him by 1.2s to keep the Toyota 15.8s in arrears.
However Sordo did make a slight mistake, running wide on one of the stage’s sweeping hairpins.
“We misunderstand the pacenotes at one point and I lost a little bit,” he said. “I try like this morning, but let’s keep trying.”
Thierry Neuville fell further behind Evans in fourth place on SS13, haemorrhaging 4.9s to his rival to trail by 13.4s.
“The tires on the rear with the soft, they got a little bit worn towards the end,” said Neuville. “But we tried, we had a good stage.”
Kalle Rovanperä described Bortigiadas – Aggius – Viddalba – not used since 2005 – as “was one of the slippiest stages I have ever done”.
“It was crazy,” he added, “I was going so slow and it still it was so slippy. A lot of [road] cleaning there.”
Takamoto Katsuta concurred, talking about the “lots of loose rocks” as he managed to edge his team-mate by 11.1s. But while Katsuta holds a lonely sixth place, Rovanperä is nowhere in the overall results as he retired on Friday with a suspension problem.
Teemu Suninen, competing on used tires this afternoon, was comfortably the slowest World Rally Car on the stage as he swept the road clean for the cars behind him and was also outpaced by new WRC2 leader Jari Huttunen.
Suninen’s M-Sport team-mate Gus Greensmith has not restarted following his mechanical issue this morning and neither has Hyundai 2C Competition’s Pierre-Louis Loubet.
Mads Østberg has lost the lead of WRC2 for checking into the time control before service six minutes late, incurring a 60s penalty.
That dropped him to eighth overall and second in WRC2, 34.9s adrift of Huttunen’s Hyundai i20 R5.
However the defending WRC2 Champion managed to go 18.1s faster than Huttunen to ominously trail by 16.8s overall.
Explaining his penalty, Østberg said: “Well it happened on the road section, just driving a bolt came out of the cross member and a whole wheel came off.
“We repaired everything we could, fixed it drove, it fell off again and we had to go like that a couple times.
“Now car seems to be working but with a different setting, we don’t have more of the normal spares. A different car now but I’m just going now, I don’t care.”
Huttunen seemed to agree with Østberg’s take that the lead could be reclaimed.
“I think still the gap is not so big,” he said. “Mads is pushing hard, I try also but I think it’s not coming well.”
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) 10m30.3s
2 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +3.8s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +5.0s
4 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +9.9s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +14.8s
6 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +25.9s
Leading positions after SS13
1 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) 2h20m59.2s
2 Sordo/Rozada (Hyundai) +21.3s
3 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +37.1s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +50.5s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +2m10.3s
6 Jari Huttunen/Mikko Lukka (Hyundai) +6m57.1s
7 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +7m13.9s
8 Marco Bulacia/Marcelo Ohannesian (Škoda) +8m44.1s
9 Martin Prokop/Zdenek Jurka (Ford) +13m10.6s