Ott Tänak has returned to form after his suspension problems earlier on Friday as team-mate Dani Sordo extended his Rally Italy lead and Kalle Rovanperä ran into problems.
Rovanperä was lying sixth overall at the start of the stage, hampered by an overshoot on Friday’s second stage that cost him over 20 seconds. But things got a lot worse on the 9.18-mile Sedini – Castelsarodo stage as the Toyota driver ceded exactly one minute to Tänak.
The nature of his issues aren’t yet known as Rovanperä didn’t speak to stage-end reporters, but his time loss was consistent throughout the entire stage and there was no visible damage to the Yaris WRC.
Out front, Sordo won his third stage of the weekend to extend his lead over M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen by another 2s to 9.5s. Suninen was third quickest, and not totally satisfied.
“We are trying but I’m not sure if the two hards were a mistake but we will say later. I tried my best,” Suninen said, who selected three medium and two hard compound tires in contrast to Sordo who took five mediums.
But curiously Sordo wasn’t happy with his tire choice either: “I didn’t do a very good stage,” he said, “the tire was a little bit too soft and I was all the time a little bit sliding too much and was not so happy.”
Sébastien Ogier remains third and almost doubled his advantage over team-mate and WRC title rival Elfyn Evans to extend his gap over him to 11.5s. But the six-time world champion wasn’t happy with still being faced with the challenge of running early on the road on the second part of Friday; something that had been eradicated in both Estonia and Turkey which had more condensed itineraries.
“Stupid rules is back, we have to deal with it,” Ogier said.
But it’s now Thierry Neuville behind Ogier as he jumped ahead of Evans into fourth overall, but Neuville was furious after stalling his Hyundai in a hairpin and waiting for around five seconds to restart it. He’s 8.7s behind Ogier’s third place but he could have potentially been ahead without the mishap.
“It’s the second time already today the car stalled in the hairpin. The restarter wasn’t working I couldn’t restart the car, I lost minimum six, seven seconds,” Neuville shouted. As it is, he has a 2.8s advantage over Evans.
Rovanperä’s substantial time loss released Gus Greensmith into sixth place and he set a strong time on SS5, quicker than both Ogier and Evans. But his run didn’t hit his pre-event objective of improving his driving.
“That was probably the worst driving I’ve done all day,” Greensmith said. “The time doesn’t seem so bad but the roads cleaning a lot in there.”
Pierre-Louis Loubet is now seventh after going fourth quickest, 1.5s quicker than Greensmith and just 4s off stage winner Sordo. But he whacked the rear-right of his Hyundai towards the end of the stage and removed his rear bumper which caused some alarm at the end of stage.
Rovanperä has dropped to eighth, 31.8s behind Loubet and just 5.3s ahead of Tänak who stays ninth.
Despite “struggling to find that last 10%” due to this being his first visit to Sardinia, Pontus Tidemand heads WRC2 as erstwhile leader Adrien Fourmaux picked up a front-left puncture.
“In a cut I hit probably a rock, in my pacenotes it was a cut but probably it was less,” he joked. “It was 8kms before the end of the stage,” he paused. “It’s rally.”
Mads Østberg’s Citroën C3 R5 was back to full health after losing front-wheel-drive on Friday’s first four stages, and duly set the quickest time. But the Norwegian admitted his task was now to keep his head up having already lost over five minutes.
Ole Christian Veiby was 5.8s slower in second to lie the same place overall, 26.5s back from Tidemand. Fourmaux is third, but 41.6s shy of the lead.
1 Sordo (Hyundai) 10m56.7s
2 Tänak (Hyundai) +0.9s
3 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +2.0s
4 Loubet (2C Competition Hyundai) +4.0s
5 Neuville (Hyundai) +4.6s
6 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +5.5s
Leading positions after SS5
1 Sordo (Hyundai) 1h04m24.4s
2 Suninen (M-Sport Ford) +9.5s
3 Ogier (Toyota) +25.2s
4 Neuville (Hyundai) +33.9s
5 Evans (Toyota) +36.7s
6 Greensmith (M-Sport Ford) +57.8s
7 Loubet (2C Competitio Hyundai) +1m13.4s
8 Rovanperä (Toyota) +1m45.2s
9 Tänak (Hyundai) +1m50.5s
10 Tidemand (Škoda) +3m25.9s