Sardinia, SS13-14: Angry Ogier fired up
Frenchman stretches lead in absorbing duel
Sébastien Ogier snatched back vital seconds from Thierry Neuville in their victory duel at Rally Italia Sardegna after a troubled start to Saturday afternoon for both drivers.
Ogier stalled his Ford Fiesta’s engine at the start of the short Citta’ di Ittiri - Coros speed test which opened the action and his slender mid-leg advantage over Neuville was further reduced to 2.9sec.
The Frenchman bounced back to win the hot and dusty 14.95km Coiluna - Loelle, reclaiming almost four seconds as his Belgian rival suffered tyre troubles in his Hyundai i20. The gap stood at 6.8sec with two long tests remaining in this penultimate leg.
“It’s a big push for me because I was so angry with the last stage this morning,” said Ogier, who conceded almost 15sec to Neuville in that test.
Team mechanics replaced the fuel tank in Neuville’s car at mid-leg service after a fuel pressure problem in the liaison section back to Alghero. Then his front right tyre debeaded 4km from the end of the longer gravel test, although he was still fifth quickest.
Neuville is carrying only one spare hard compound tyre so would he be cautious through the final two tests of the day? “No,” was the firm answer!
Esapekka Lappi was fastest at Ittiri and took more time out of Toyota Gazoo team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in the longer stage. The gap between the Yaris drivers was 4.5sec in their battle for third with Latvala complaining he was too cautious at the start.
Hayden Paddon was the only driver brave enough to opt for a mix of hard and soft rubber as temperatures rose to 25°C and the roads became more rocky and abrasive. The Kiwi remained fifth and said: “It’s definitely a big call but we have to try things sometimes.”
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