Dani Sordo responded strongly in the battle for second place on Rally Italy, carving 5.2s out of M-Sport’s Craig Breen to reduce the podium gap to 1.5s.
The trio of Breen, Sordo and Pierre-Louis Loubet had started Saturday mere tenths of a second apart and, while Breen had taken the initiative on the day opener, he struggled somewhat on Erula-Tula.
“I didn’t have as good a rhythm, my notes weren’t quite as good,” explained Breen.
Loubet meanwhile had elected not to push to try and catch the podium battlers ahead, concerned that his debeaded tire on Tempio Pausiana would come back to haunt him if he picked up a second tire issue.
“I was very careful with the tire because I had a puncture and I prefer to have one spare for the second loop,” said a sensible Loubet, as he dropped to 11.9s behind Sordo in fourth overall.
As that trio battled over the lower steps of the podium, Ott Tänak solidified his lead further with the fastest time on Erula-Tula by 3.3s, surpassing the half-minute mark for his lead in the overall classification.
Kalle Rovanperä has taken sixth place away from his Toyota stablemate Takamoto Katsuta, finding some pace on the faster and wider sections of the Erula-Tula test.
His losses to Neuville, who’d cut heavily into his advantage on the previous stage, remained stable this time with only 1.9s docked. But the championship leader was still concerned at how recalcitrant his Yaris was in the tight and twisty sections.
“The sections with low grip, I cannot do anything,” said Rovanperä. “I cannot do what I want, so we struggle, especially on the narrow parts. Here it was a big wider so I try to push.”
Katsuta now has only 26.1s in hand over Neuville, has he had a bizarre incident at a hairpin.
An asphalt section with a slight uphill hairpin caught Katsuta out, cutting aggressively and hitting the lip of his GR Yaris’ front bumper against the protruding edge of the asphalt road above. It stopped his car dead in its tracks and triggered a stall.
“Luckily we didn’t have any alert on the display, any radiator or something. It’s fine but just quite a big surprise,” said a bemused Katsuta.
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 11m34.7s
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +3.3s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +5.1s
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +5.2s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +10.3s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +12.9s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +14.7s
- Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +15.4s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +21.6s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +21.9s
Leading positions after SS11
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 1h32m15.2s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +31.8s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +33.3s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +45.2s
- Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (M-Sport Ford) +1m03.00s
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +1m40.00s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +1m51.4s
- Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +2m17.5s
- Andreas Mikkelsen/Torstein Eriksen (Škoda) +3m18.3s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +3m30.9s