Sami Pajari leads WRC2 after a chaotic Friday on Rally Italy Sardinia.
Oliver Solberg had initially proved to be the pacesetter, consolidating his lead after Thursday’s superspecial with a win on Friday’s first stage.
But broken front-left suspension towards the end of the day’s second stage ruined his rhythm, and looked to force the Toksport Škoda driver out only for some dogged determination to ratchet-strap his car and complete the mammoth 30-mile stage with compromised suspension.
Solberg lost over 26 and a half minutes on the stage but crucially stayed in the rally – albeit 22nd and stone dead last in class.
Solberg’s demise opened the door for his team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen who inherited the lead, but Hyundai driver Teemu Suninen stormed past to end the morning out front – 3.8s ahead with M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux tucked in just 7.4s adrift too.
The afternoon would be complicated for all WRC2 drivers though.
First, SS5 was canceled due to safety issues, and then notional times were given to everyone except Fourmaux on the next test as the stage was red-flagged due to an accident for Gus Greensmith.
Greensmith – who’s not competing for WRC2 points this weekend – and co-driver Jonas Andersson disappeared off the road and hit the ‘OK’ button aboard their Fabia RS Rally2, but Greensmith was later airlifted to hospital for checks given the size of the impact.
Heading onto the second pass of the season’s longest stage so far, Monte Lerno – Sa Conchedda, Suninen led Mikkelsen by 5.8s with Fourmaux 6.3s behind.
But the Finn plummeted down to seventh by the end of the day as he was forced to stop and change a wheel mid-stage, losing the best part of two minutes.
That should’ve opened the door for Mikkelsen, but Fourmaux’s Fiesta Rally2 beat him by 10.1s to move ahead by 9.6s.
However, Fourmaux wouldn’t lead either, as a stunning effort from Pajari lifted him from fourth and into the rally lead for the first time in his WRC2 career.
The Škoda driver holds an overnight advantage of 6.3s.
Miko Marczyk impressed on his way to fourth overall, 8.5s up on WRC2 championship leader Yohan Rossel who’s fifth.
Defending champion Emil Lindholm is third overall in the RC2 class, but not scoring WRC2 points in Sardinia.