Dani Sordo won the Monza Rally’s powerstage dress-rehearsal and took second from Ott Tänak with it, but Sébastien Ogier continues to lead and now stands on the brink of a seventh World Rally Championship title in eight years.
Serraglio will be repeated at Sunday lunchtime, making this first pass an ideal opportunity to learn the stage ahead of the all-important points-paying powerstage.
Sordo started Sunday’s leg of three stages in second but dropped behind his Hyundai team-mate Ott Tänak on the Grand Prix test, largely because he selected snow tires and his rivals went for the wet option, which proved to be the right choice.
Back on the pace on the rally’s penultimate stage, Sordo beat Tänak by 2.9 seconds to jump ahead overall by 0.2s.
“My target is to bring [Hyundai] the manufacturers’ championship,” said Sordo at stage-end, the words of team principal Andrea Adamo no doubt ringing in his ears.
“If we can finish second it’s OK if we can third it’s also OK. The target is the manufacturers.”
As for rally leader Ogier, he sacrificed 7.4s to Sordo but that was of no concern with a healthy advantage at the front of 20.8s.
“So far so good,” he said. “I will keep the same rhythm and try and stay out of trouble and hopefully we can make it.”
Esapekka Lappi meanwhile has extinguished Kalle Rovanperä’s hopes of stealing fourth spot in what had threatened to be a close tight to the finish.
Like Sordo, Lappi had incorrectly chosen snow compound tires on Sunday morning’s first stage and lost 15.1s to Rovanperä, but with the snow tires bolted on Lappi was back on form, beating Rovanperä by 4.8s to build his advantage back up to 21.6s.
“It’s not possible anymore [to catch him],” said Rovanperä.
“In the morning it was OK because we had the better tires than Lappi had but it’s more difficult now. I can’t push that much more if he doesn’t make a mistake.”
Elfyn Evans – who needs Ogier to be overhauled by others or retire to stand a chance of taking the title – was fifth fastest on the stage, 7.5s shy of the benchmark after a half-spin and stall at a tight hairpin.
There were no changes in the fight for WRC3 and WRC2 honors that are dominating the back-end of the top 10, with Andreas Mikkelsen still heading the first of those classes from Oliver Solberg and Jari Huttunen.
Pontus Tidemand did bite 13.8s out of his WRC2 title rival Mads Østberg’s lead, but Østberg remains 24.9s ahead and on course for the championship in ninth overall.
1 Sordo (Hyundai) 11m10.2s
2 Tänak (Hyundai) +2.9s
3 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +4.2s
4 Ogier (Toyota) +7.4s
5 Evans (Toyota) +7.5s
6 Rovanperä (Toyota) +9s
Leading positions after SS15
1 Ogier (Toyota) 2h04m37s
2 Sordo (Hyundai) +20.8s
3 Tänak (Hyundai) +21s
4 Lappi (M-Sport Ford) +51.7s
5 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1m13.3s
6 Mikkelsen (Škoda) +3m40.6s
7 Solberg (Škoda) +4m04.1s
8 Huttunen (Hyundai) +4m52.8s
9 Ostberg (Citroën) +5m14.2s
10 Tidemand (Škoda) +5m39.1s