Rally News

Points leader Neuville crashes out, Tanak leads Ogier

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

Tanak became embroiled in an intense fight with overnight leader Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) across the morning’s rough gravel stages with the lead changing hands twice, before Tanak ended the loop with a 3.5s lead.

However, a stage eight exit for Neuville from third position was the biggest talking point of the loop. Neuville’s retirement handed third to Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta [+1m17.5s] with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo fourth [+1m34.6s] and a frustrated Toyota’s Elfyn Evans fifth [+1m57.6s].

Sami Pajari led the WRC2 standings in sixth overall, ahead of M-Sport Rally1 driver Gregoire Munster, while M-Sport’s Adrien Fourmaux rejoined the rally after retiring with an electrical issue in Friday’s stage four.

The morning’s opening stage, Tempio Pausania (12.03km), was particularly challenging thanks to its low grip and sandy surface.

Those starting at the top of the order struggled although Neuville, fourth into the stage, managed to buck the trend. The Belgian delivered an impressive time that moved him ahead of team-mate Sordo and Toyota’s Katsuta into third overall.

Neuville was only 3.3s behind stage winner Tanak, who claimed his second fastest time of the rally to date despite being distracted by a loose bonnet.

It was enough to snatch the rally lead by the smallest of margins as Ogier relinquished his overnight advantage by a tenth, after losing time to a left rear tyre coming off the rim.

Ogier was the sole driver to take only one spare as part of his tyre package, which left him in danger for the remaining three stages before the tyre fitting zone.

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

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

Evans was unable to match Neuville’s pace, starting one position head of his rival, as he struggled to judge the low grip. The Welshman was sixth fastest, behind top WRC2 runner Pajari.

Walking a tightrope after the tyre failure, Ogier produced an impressive fightback in stage six. He was fastest through the 22.61km Tula test to reclaim the rally lead by 2.2s from Tanak.

Ogier laid down an impressive effort 2.3s faster than his former M-Sport team-mate, who felt his maximised his run.

“Obviously, tough start with the puncture,” said Ogier. “We tried to fix it but we are not 100% sure we can still use it. I can see the wheel is bent and is leaking. It is a big fight.”

Neuville again maintained his strong start to clock a time…

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