Tänak charge sets up final-loop thriller in Italy

Thierry Neuville heads the race for bonus points, but the overall battle is adding more spice to Sunday

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Ott Tänak has cut Rally Italy Sardinia leader Sébastien Ogier’s advantage to 6.6s with only two stages remaining, while Hyundai team-mate Thierry Neuville has been fastest on Sunday so far.

Ogier started Sunday in Sardinia with a 17.1s advantage, but Tänak put the hammer down – despite a morning of mixed messages from the 2019 world champion.

At first, Tänak seemed nonplussed about chasing down Ogier for victory given his comments at the finish line of Cala Flumini: “The rally was finished yesterday! This doesn’t make any difference anymore. It’s a different event today for the points.”

Despite that blasé attitude towards the overall classification, Tänak has put Ogier’s hopes of a third win in a row in jeopardy, going 6.5s faster than the Toyota driver on Sassari to set up the potential for a final-stage battle for the win.

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Ogier remains out front, but Tänak is closing in with just one loop remaining

When asked if he’d be pushing on the powerstage, Tänak replied: “We’ve been giving it a go already this morning.”

Ogier indicated nothing was amiss aboard his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 but was nevertheless not on full attack, especially on Sassari which was “rough and not suiting the car.”

Despite being first on the road after his Saturday retirement Thierry Neuville has been fastest across Sunday’s first two stages, 5.4s up on Tänak, and thus putting himself in the box seat to rescue seven points from the weekend.

Elfyn Evans has also been pushing to rescue some points from a difficult weekend. Toyota’s main protagonist in the drivers’ championship fight has been third-fastest on Sunday so far, 10.6s off Neuville’s Sunday pace. That was aided by an improved feeling in the car, with Evans suggesting that “just the driver needs sorting.”

That push has also dragged Evans closer to third-placed Dani Sordo in the overall classification, with the gap cut to 22.5s. Sordo couldn’t help but look over his shoulder.

“Evans pushed a little bit this morning, we took a little bit of dust and we lost a little bit of time,” said Sordo. “We need to try to keep the place and finish on the podium.”

Adrien Fourmaux’s difficult Sardinia outing got worse on the first pass of Cala Flumini – he is seventh in Sunday points after running wide at a left-hander, having missed the pacenote calling the corner.

Sami Pajari is cruising to victory in WRC2 with a healthy lead over the chasing pack – but behind the battle for second place has come alive.

Yohan Rossel demolished the field on Saturday, climbing from 15th to second place, as he recovered from a Friday puncture. But Jan Solans, who’d been demoted to third by the works Citroën driver on Saturday afternoon, hit back on Sunday morning by going 6.9s faster than his rival across the day’s first two stages.

The gap between them has shrunk to 5.1s, with Rossel admitting he wasn’t on top form: “We slipped a bit on the first stage today,” said the championship leader. “I don’t know if it’s my confidence or not. I don’t want to do a mistake and it’s not easy to keep the concentration.”

Martin Prokop, who made his 19th start on Rally Italy Sardinia this week, took fourth place away from Kajetan Kajetanowicz on Sassari by setting the third-quickest time, 11.5s up than the three-time European champion.