Ogier pulls clear of Lappi on Saturday morning

The battle was close, but now the eight-time world champion has made a break for it up front


Sébastien Ogier holds a relatively comfortable lead at the end of Saturday’s opening loop on Rally Italy Sardinia after edging even further away from Esapekka Lappi.

The pair were engaged in a battle for the lead from the first stage of the day, exchanging times back and forth to get the better of one another.

But Ogier put his foot down on SS10, growing his lead to double figures which was aided by a flat tire for Lappi.

And on the final stage of the loop, Tempio Pausania, the gap continued to extend as the Toyota driver took a further 5.5 seconds out of Lappi to hold an 18.2s lead going into service.

Meanwhile Thierry Neuville – who started the stage 15s behind Lappi – brought the gap down to 6.5s at the end of the first loop.

The Hyundai driver was focused on the afternoon ahead as rain clouds began to loom over the Italian island.

“It was a good run but I was missing a bit of traction in there. It was quite humid and I would have liked to have had a bit more grip,” Neuville said.

“Obviously we got a big hit in the previous stage by Sébastien [Ogier], so we need to see what the strategy will be for the afternoon.”

Kalle Rovanperä sat in a lonely fourth place all morning long, and thanks to retirements around him he is comfortably in fourth with Neuville a very distant 38.8s up the road.

“I tried to change some setups on the car because on the previous one I was struggling so much with understeer in the low-speed and narrow sections,” the reigning champion explained.

“We changed something and the feeling was better but we are still not pushing because we don’t really have much to gain.”

After his troubles on SS10 thanks to a water crossing, Elfyn Evans came through at a slower speed than he’d have liked.

But the Toyota driver will be relieved to see the service park as he managed to bring his GR Yaris Rally1 through the morning loop.

“Obviously we had to just get through after what happened in the last one,” he said. “We’re just getting through.”

Evans wasn’t the only driver to suffer from water crossings, as both Takamoto Katsuta and Ott Tänak retired during Saturday’s morning loop with engine problems.