WRC Rally Italy: Neuville slashes Ogier's lead on Saturday morning

Sebastien Ogier continues to lead Rally Italy after Saturday morning's stages, but his lead has been slashed to 4.9 seconds by World Rally Championship title rival Thierry Neuville

Ogier held an 18.9s lead overnight in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta and had increased that gap by sixth tenths of a second after the second stage of the day, but lost 14.6s to Hyundai's Neuville on the Monte Lerno test.

The world champion seemed relaxed about the situation, but admitted he would have to push harder on Saturday afternoon to stay at the head of the field.

Standings leader Neuville - who heads the championship by 19 points - said he was pushing hard to catch Ogier, but was surprised by the amount of time he was able to take out of the Frenchman's advantage.

Behind the leading pair, Toyota team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi are locked in an intense fight for third.

Latvala had a 4.4s advantage heading into Saturday morning's loop but had that eradicated to just 0.9s after the opening stage.

Lappi lost confidence on the following test, however, with a lot of loose rocks on the road, and now finds himself seven seconds behind his compatriot heading into the afternoon.

Hayden Paddon began the day in sixth position but has overhauled Citroen's Mads Ostberg for fifth.

Ostberg was unhappy with the feeling of his C3, and said he lacked the confidence to push hard. Paddon meanwhile was finally feeling at one with his i20, performing well in the dry conditions that he had craved on Friday.

Ostberg's team-mate Craig Breen continues to hold seventh overall after a difficult Friday, ahead of leading WRC2 driver Jan Kopecky.

Kopecky inherited the class lead on SS11 Monti di Ala from Stephane Lefebvre, who parked his Citroen C3 R5 with suspension damage.

Martin Prokop holds ninth in his older Ford Fiesta WRC ahead of the Hyundai i20 R5 of Nicolas Ciamin.

Ott Tanak is closing back in on the top 10 following his retirement from third place on Friday's final stage, while Teemu Suninen's comeback suffered a setback with a puncture on Monte Lerno.

Leading positions after SS12

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 2h18m43.5s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 4.9s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 41.1s
4 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 48.1s
5 Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1m10.1s
6 Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 1m15.0s
7 Craig Breen, S.Martin Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 2m06.6s
8 Jan Kopecky, P.Dresler Skoda Motorsport II Skoda 7m25.5s
9 Martin Prokop, J.Tomanek MP-Sports Ford 9m31.0s
10 Nicolas Ciamin, T.de la Haye Nicolas Ciamin Hyundai 9m51.0s

Previous article WRC Rally Italy Sardinia: Sebastien Ogier surges from fifth to lead
Next article WRC Rally Italy: Sebastien Ogier holds off Thierry Neuville