Toyota’s Kale Rovanperä squandered the chance to assume the Rally Italy lead from Ott Tänak with a stall towards the end of the stage restricting him to second.
Rovanperä, chasing a 1.6-second deficit after SS1, had been setting positive splits against Hyundai’s Tänak and was one second ahead with a couple of miles to go. But the stall meant the 20-year-old instead ended the stage 2.4s slower and now four seconds behind overall.
“It was [a] really difficult stage I have to say, much more difficult than the first one,” said Rovanperä. “The grip was changing all the time and it was hard to know where the grip change was.”
Tänak echoed his rival’s comments: “It’s demanding, it’s really demanding, many surprises and not so easy overall. But we are here, it’s important to keep it in one piece.”
Sébastien Ogier completes the early podium after two stages and set the second-fastest time on SS2 Terranova – just 1.4s slower than Tänak – despite his position as the road sweeper.
The championship leader is 11s adrift of the lead but 3.3s clear of Dani Sordo who feels “I miss a little bit the confidence with the pacenotes, I was a little bit lost in some places”.
Elfyn Evans and Thierry Neuville have both continued to leak time to Ogier despite facing marginally better road conditions.
Evans dropped 6.8s to the seven-time champion, and said: “I’m struggling to be honest, struggling with the overall confidence. It’s not working so well this morning.”
Neuville’s time was even poorer on SS2, losing 10.6s to Ogier and 3.8s to Evans to slip behind the Toyota into seventh overall.
“We didn’t have a good rhythm at all in the stage,” rued Neuville.
“I’m not able to drive the car fast. I’m really not confident with the handling, that’s where we are losing the time.”
Both are almost half-a-minute down on their championship rival Tänak already, while Toyota junior Takamoto Katsuta also holds a 5.5s and 8.7s advantage over the pair.
Katsuta is fifth, 20s shy of the lead but playing his way into the event.
“I can push more but just need to see what’s happening,” he said.
Gus Greensmith is struggling to replicate his strong form from Portugal, lying 45.2s down on the rally lead in his M-Sport Fiesta after two tests.
While there was a slight mistake on the opener, Greensmith admitted “I just don’t know what else I could’ve done in there, the feeling was good” on SS2.
Pierre-Louis Loubet is ninth in his 2C Competition Hyundai, doing all he needs to as he looks to avoid another costly mistake which have become commonplace in 2021.
Mads Østberg was again the quickest driver in WRC2 to head the class, edging Loubet’s WRC Hyundai on the SS2 classification.
The Norwegian was 7s quicker than his compatriot Andreas Mikkelsen to lead WRC2 by 18s. Mikkelsen felt that time loss was down to his tire selection of six hard compounds while Østberg picked four hards and two softs.
But the reigning WRC2 Champion wasn’t convinced Mikkelsen was telling the truth. When it was put to him that Mikkelsen felt he was losing time because of his tires, Østberg said: “That’s a lie because we have the same strategy, I checked his tires before the stage so I know we have the same tires!”
Adrien Fourmaux had been second in the category for M-Sport but clipped a rock on the inside of a corner which broke something on the front of his Fiesta and resulted in him being stranded by the side of the road.
Nikolay Gryazin is second of the Rally2 runners but isn’t scoring WRC2 points this weekend.
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) 9m15.8s
2 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Toyota) +1.4s
3 Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (Toyota) +2.4s
4 Dani Sordo/Borja Rozada (Hyundai) +3.9s
5 Takamoto Katsuta/Daniel Barritt (Toyota) +7.9s
6 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota) +8.2s
Leading positions after SS2
1 Tänak/Järveoja (Hyundai) 22m24.1s
2 Rovanperä/Halttunen (Toyota) +4.0s
3 Ogier/Ingrassia (Toyota) +11.0s
4 Sordo/Rozada (Hyundai) +14.3s
5 Katsuta/Barritt (Toyota) +20.0s
6 Evans/Martin (Toyota) +25.5s
7 Thierry Neuville/Martijn Wydaeghe (Hyundai) +28.7s
8 Gus Greensmith/Stuart Loudon (M-Sport Ford) +45.2s
9 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Florian Haut-Labourdette (Hyundai) +54.0s
10 Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroën) +59.1s