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Stage report
WRC Rally Italy

WRC Rally Sardinia: Tanak slashes Ogier's lead, Neuville tops Sunday standings

Ott Tanak slashed Sebastien Ogier’s Rally Sardinia lead while World Rally Championship points leader Thierry Neuville bounced back to head the Super Sunday standings.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Tanak started the morning trailing Ogier’s Toyota by 17.1s but a strong run through the morning’s two stages reduced the deficit to 6.6s with two stages remaining.

Hyundai’s Dani Sordo maintained third [+2m15.5s] ahead of Toyota’s Elfyn Evans [+2m38.0s], with M-Sport Ford’s Gregoire Munster, fifth [+6m10.0s].

Hyundai’s Neuville and Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta rejoined the rally after their Saturday retirements. But it was the former that dominated the morning stages as he set his sights on salvaging the seven Super Sunday points.

Neuville bounced back from the disappointment of Saturday’s exit from third position by winning the first of four Sunday tests. Determined to salvage some Super Sunday points, the Hyundai driver had feared opening the road would be costly, however his effort proved 4.6s faster than Tanak.

“Not very proud of yesterday. Today is about the extra points,” said Neuville. “Nothing is over. Before Portugal we had only a six point and one rally it changed a lot. The season is still long.”

Hanging dust hampered those that followed Neuville, but it was Tanak who seemed to fare the best. The Estonian was four seconds faster than rally leader Ogier which reduced the Frenchman’s advantage to 13.1s. Although, Tanak didn’t see any reason to apply pressure on the Ogier virtue of the new points system.

“The rally was finished yesterday this doesn’t make any difference anymore it is a different event for the points today. The rally win is not important anymore,” said Tanak.

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Sébastien Ogier, Vincent Landais, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Photo by: Toyota Racing

Evans was third fastest to move into a provisional five Super Sunday points. The Welshman reported that the feeling was better in his GR Yaris but admitted the “driver needed sorting.”

Sordo was fourth fastest ahead of Katsuta, who struggled to navigate through the dust. M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux was lucky to avoid damaging his Ford Puma when he overshot a corner after missing a pacenote.

The first pass through the famous Sassari stage, which will host the rally ending Power Stage, fuelled the fight for the overall win.

The spectacular sandy coastal test seemed to degrade after every pass benefitting the early runners. However, Tanak appeared to buck the trend as he clawed 6.5s out of Ogier, who struggled in the rougher conditions, as his rally lead was cut to 6.6s with two stages remaining.

Neuville won the stage to continue his impressive fightback, extending his lead in the Super Sunday points standings to 5.4s over Tanak, with Evans third and Ogier fourth. Sordo, Katsuta and Fourmaux filled the remaining Sunday points paying positions.

In WRC2, Sami Pajari, sitting sixth overall, led title contender Yohan Rossel by 48.6s.

The crews will repeat the loop stages to complete the rally this afternoon.

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