Ott Tänak has retired from a comfortable lead of a World Rally Championship round for the second event in a row weekend, promoting Sébastien Ogier to the lead of Rally Italy.
Tänak had been leading by 40.5 seconds ahead of SS12, which closes out Saturday morning’s loop, and was looking to consolidate his gap at the front.
But when attacking a fast section of Lerno – Monte di Ala 2, Tänak’s Hyundai clipped a rock on the racing line and something broke immediately, forcing the 2019 world champion to pull over and retire from the event.
It follows a similar disappointment in Portugal two weeks ago when his Hyundai’s suspension broke and forced him to surrender a rally lead there too.
Ogier is the chief beneficiary, moving into a 17.5s lead over Dani Sordo having taken a commanding stage win on the test. The world championship leader grabbed some 11.1s from Sordo on stage, setting a time 4.1s quicker than anybody else.
“For us there was two big moments,” said Ogier. “There was big stone on the line I couldn’t avoid, I was luckily not flat out in this section so I tried to lift the car but still a very big hit on the front. Rough stage.”
Thierry Neuville was the next-quickest, hitting back at Elfyn Evans in their battle for what is now third place.
Neuville had trailed Evans’s Toyota by 10.5s prior to SS12 which closed out Saturday morning’s loop of stages, having been beaten by the Rally Portugal winner on all three of the day’s previous tests.
But a strong run on Lerno – Monte di Ala 2 allowed Neuville to gnaw two seconds back from his rival, meaning he’s now 8.5s adrift with eight stages – four this afternoon – remaining in Sardinia.
Evans meanwhile is just 14.6s Sordo and 32.1s adrift of his rally leading team-mate. Takamoto Katsuta has been shuffled up to fifth despite having a bald rear-right tire, 1m14.9s behind Neuville’s fourth spot.
Gus Greensmith, who is restarting today under Rally2 rules due to a transmission problem on Friday, retired for a second time this weekend on SS12 – failing to make it to the third of four split points.
Up until then, he had been losing chunks of time to the rest of the pack with what is suspected to be an electrical issue.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was another to lose time, dropping two minutes at stage end to the leaders with some kind of issue in the final few miles as he said he “smelt something burning.”
WRC2 leader Mads Østberg is now up to sixth overall such is the attrition rate, 25.1s ahead of Hyundai’s Jari Huttunen. WRC3 leader Yohan Rossel is eighth, with Pepe López moving into ninth overall and second in class at the expense of Jan Solans.
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) 12m32.7s
2 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +4.1s
3 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +6.1s
4 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +11.1s
5 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +16.3s
6 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +20.9s
Leading positions after SS12
1 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) 2h10m28.9s
2 Sordo/Rozada (Hyundai) +17.5s
3 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +32.1s
4 Neuville/Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +40.6s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +1m55.5s
6 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +5m54.3s
7 Jari Huttunen/Mikko Lukka (Hyundai) +6m19.4s
8 Yohan Rossel/Alexandre Coria (Citroën) +7m02.7s
9 Pepe López/Diego Vallejo (Škoda) +7m46.0s
10 Jan Solans/Rodrigo Sanjuan (Citroën) +8m00.4s