Sordo holds Italy lead as Ogier reclaims second from Neuville

Dani Sordo still has nearly half a minute in hand as Ogier and Neuville squabble over second

Dani Sordo

Dani Sordo is just four stages away from a second consecutive Rally Italy victory as he holds a 27.4-second advantage over new second-placed man Sébastien Ogier after Saturday’s running.

Sordo began the day with M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen as his closest challenger, but as he kept up his form Suninen slid back to fifth overall with a broken handbrake, leaving Ogier and Thierry Neuville to take up the chase.

Those two entered Saturday’s final stage just 1.4s apart in Neuville’s favor, but Ogier was in the ascendency having outpaced his rival on SS11.

Ogier had bolted three medium compound and one hard compound tire to his Toyota, with Neuville choosing four mediums.

But in the end tire strategy became irrelevant, as on SS12 Tergu–Osilo Neuville overcooked a right-hander into a small bridge, ran slightly wide and lost crucial momentum – an incident remarkably similar to the one that cost Elfyn Evans victory in Argentina back in 2017.

The mistake cost Neuville 2.9s to Ogier, meaning he heads into Sunday 1.5s behind his rival in third place.

“I tried very hard to be honest but looks like they [Toyota] had a little more speed than us. Maybe the tires did make a difference. I was a little bit too late on the brakes at the bridge but that’s what happens when you’re pushing to the maximum,” Neuville assessed.

Ogier, who was first of the pair to arrive at the finish, was had been unconcerned about overhauling Neuville before the end of Saturday’s action, commenting: “[It’s] important to beat him after tomorrow.”

Sordo meanwhile kept a consistent pace all day to maintain a healthy lead advantage throughout, his only real scare being a herd of cows appearing on the apex of a corner on Saturday morning.

The Hyundai star set the second-fastest time on the final stage of the day by just one second to prove, if there was any doubt, that he had earned his position at the top.

“Some corners towards the end I started to feel it was understeering too much so I decided to take it a bit careful,” the rally leader said, feeling his choice of four mediums wasn’t the optimum call.


Photo: Toyota Gazoo Racing

Toyota’s Evans had headed to Sardinia batting away questions about a potential world title with an 18 point cushion at the top over Ogier.

But with Monza being added to the calendar, it’s now mathematically impossible for Evans to take the title this week.

He was therefore left to concentrate on his driving but this didn’t go quite as planned.

Evans was simply unable to match the speed of Neuville and team-mate Ogier, running 31s behind in fourth position overall.

But he punched in a competitive time on the Tergu–Osilo test that concluded the day as he “tried to be smoother” with his driving.

Suninen had beaten Evans by two seconds on Saturday’s penultimate stage after losing fourth spot on the test before, but he ceded 4.6s on SS12 to lurk 8.5s behind the championship leader overnight.

Ott Tänak’s pace was restored on Saturday following his suspension problems on Friday. Over the course of the day, he climbed from eighth to sixth but was aided by Gus Greensmith retiring from sixth in the morning with a broken alternator.


Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

Seventh-placed Pierre-Louis Loubet called his afternoon tire choice of four mediums “a disaster” in contrast to Tänak’s choice of hards. When asked what he thought of his selection, the world champion replied: “I don’t think I need to share that with you.”

Takamoto Katsuta returned to action on Saturday after crashing out on Friday, but lost his braking aboard his Yaris WRC on Saturday’s penultimate stage, causing him to drive tentatively through most of the stage. But repairs in between SS11 and SS12 appeared to do the trick, albeit briefly.”

“Without brake it’s not nice,” Katsuta said. “This stage we tried a fix before the stage and it feels not perfect. End of stage we lost it again.”

Kalle Rovanperä crashed out of ninth place on Saturday’s second stage when he ran off-line, whacked a tree with the rear-left of his Toyota and careered into another tree backwards, tearing a wheel off his car.

Such was the damage sustained to the rollcage of his Yaris that Rovanperä won’t be able to restart on Sunday morning, marking the 20-year-old’s first DNF of 2020.

Jari Huttunen

Photo: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

Jari Huttunen leads the pack of Rally2 cars and is eighth overall, such has been the attrition in Rally1.

His Hyundai i20 heads the Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo of Kajetan Kajetanowicz by 10.5s after Oliver Solberg, who’d climbed from third to first in WRC3 on Saturday’s penultimate stage, retired on the final test.

Running off-line into a braking zone, Solberg slipped wide nose-first into a ditch which he couldn’t get out from, but will restart on Sunday as the incident caused no actual damage to his Fabia.

Citroën pilots Yoann Rossel and Nicolas Ciamin had both been inside the top three heading into the day but Rossel retired with broken steering and Ciamin was out too a stage later.

It means despite failing to trouble the lead times this weekend, Marco Bulacia is now up to third in his C3 R5 with local Italian driver Umberto Scandola in fourth and American Sean Johnston a career-best fifth.

Pontus Tidemand leads WRC2 in 10th overall on a day that claimed his closest challenger, Adrien Fourmaux. Fourmaux was on a charge at the start of Saturday but a broken suspension ruled the M-Sport driver out of the contest.

Eyvind Brynildsen is second overnight but has his hands full of Hyundai’s Ole Christian Veiby who battled back from a third puncture of the weekend earlier in the day to end the leg a mere 0.4s adrift of his compatriot in third.


Photo: M-Sport

Junior WRC is being controlled by Tom Kristensson, who is set to recoup valuable championship points after his retirement in Estonia.

While title rival Mārtiņš Sesks broke a driveshaft on Friday and his closest challenger Sami Pajari did the same thing on Saturday morning, Kristensson has eased into a dominant 8m56.2s over Fabrizio Zaldivar.

The Sardinian stages have been brutal on the Ford Fiesta Rally4’s, meaning that despite being over 31 minutes down on the leader, Sesks holds third position ahead of Ruairi Bell who retired on Friday when he broke his radiator against a haybale at speed.

SS12 times

1 Ogier (Toyota) 8m03.4s
2 Sordo (Hyundai) +1s
3 Neuville (Hyundai) +2.9s
4 Evans (Toyota) +3.1s
5 Suninen (M-Sport) +7.7s
6 Tänak (Hyundai) +9.3s

Leading positions after SS12

1 Sordo (Hyundai) 2h14m35.5s
2 Ogier (Toyota) +27.4s
3 Neuville (Hyundai) +28.9s
4 Evans (Toyota) +58.4s
5 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +1m06.9s
6 Tänak (Hyundai) +2m25.3s
7 Loubet (2C Competition Hyundai) +3m37.0s
8 Huttunen (Hyundai) +6m58.7s
9 Kajetanowicz (Škoda) +7m09.2s
10 Tidemand (Škoda) +7m48.1s