Ott Tänak is one stage away from a first World Rally Championship victory in over a year, winning yet another Rally Italy stage with only the powerstage to come.
The smallest time gap between the leading Rally1 crews now standing at 28 seconds – the amount separating Craig Breen and Dani Sordo in second and third – few drivers were willing to push on Sunday morning.
That led tire strategy to come into play ahead of the points-paying powerstage, with many drivers backing off to preserve tire life.
Cala Flumini stage winner Tänak took a different approach. He was the only driver to take hard tires for the final loop of the rally and fitted them in a cross pattern, helping to preserve a pair of softs for the powerstage.
“On the second loop it’s always very abrasive,” explained Tänak. “So it’s the only stage in the loop where the hards are working. Now we go back to softs.”
Breen meanwhile looks unlikely to put it all on the line for some bonus points on the next test, keen to preserve a season-best result of second place.
“Honestly it’s a tricky little powerstage this one,” Breen said of the upcoming Sassari test. “The more you take risks, the more you push, you can make huge time. We’re in a very good position now and it would be shame to ruin it.”
Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville, both of whom retired and are back under super rally, have been on a go-slow and running at a similar pace to WRC2 cars to save their tires for one last push.
That approach hasn’t been mirrored by the other restarting Saturday retiree: Esapekka Lappi went second-fastest as he tried out some setup changes for his team-mates ahead of Safari Rally Kenya.
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 8m23.2s
- Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota) +0.3s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +1.3s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +1.9s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +2.7s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +4.8s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +5.0s
- Chris Ingram/Craig Drew (Škoda) +11.6s
- Nikolay Gryazin/ Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +13.7s
- Jari Huttunen/ Mikko Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +15.0s
Leading positions after SS20
- Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 3h05m44.9s
- Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (M-Sport Ford) +58.2s
- Dani Sordo/Cándido Carrera (Hyundai) +1m26.2s
- Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (M-Sport Ford) +2m02.4s
- Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +3m13.7s
- Takamoto Katsuta/Aaron Johnston (Toyota) +4m06.7s
- Gus Greensmith/Jonas Andersson (M-Sport Ford) +5m23.5s
- Nikolay Gryazin/ Konstantin Aleksandrov (Škoda) +7m17.4s
- Jan Solans /Rodrigo Sanjuan (Citroën) +7m49.00s
- Jari Huttunen/ Mikko Lukka (M-Sport Ford) +8m03.8s