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Ogier’s Saturday Charge Leaves Tänak Trailing in Italy

01/06/2024

Sardinia, Italy – Sébastien Ogier is on course to claim a remarkable third FIA World Rally Championship victory in succession after distancing Ott Tänak on Saturday’s gruelling second leg at Rally Italia Sardegna.

The eight-time WRC champion will start Super Sunday with a 17.1-second advantage over Hyundai i20 N rival Tänak after a turbulent day, which included four lead changes and saw championship leader Thierry Neuville bow out into retirement.

Fortune initially favored Tänak when overnight leader Ogier’s decision to carry only one spare wheel for the morning tests backfired. A deflated tire forced him to use the same set of rubber for three increasingly rough and abrasive stages, and after trading positions three times, he trailed the Estonian by 3.5 seconds at the mid-leg tire fitting zone.

In the afternoon’s legendary stages around Monte Lerno, however, Ogier threw caution to the wind. With Tänak’s pace fading and the 2019 title winner hinting that he was being instructed to play it safe, Ogier stormed back into the lead after just one stage and proceeded to post a trio of benchmark times in his GR Yaris.

A successful Sunday for Ogier would follow back-to-back victories in Croatia and Portugal and could see the Frenchman confirm his place as the most successful driver in Rally Italia Sardegna history. “It has been a positive day, and an even more positive afternoon,” he smiled. “This morning’s stages were very rough, but I enjoyed the afternoon so much more and it was a pleasure to drive the car.”

Thierry Neuville arrived in Sardinia with a 24-point championship lead over Elfyn Evans and looked set to increase that margin after climbing from fifth to third early in the day. However, his podium hopes went awry when he misjudged a braking point in SS8, sliding his Hyundai off the road and into retirement.

Takamoto Katsuta was elevated to the podium as a result, but the Japanese driver’s time inside the top three was short-lived. His Toyota developed a transmission issue which proved terminal on SS9.

The drama up front opened the door for Dani Sordo to complete the leading trio in another Hyundai. Despite struggling to find his rhythm, the Spaniard trailed teammate Tänak by almost two minutes with Evans a further 30.5 seconds behind. Grégoire Munster rounded out the top five in an M-Sport Ford Puma while WRC2 leader Sami Pajari held sixth.

Sunday’s finale is based northwest of Alghero and includes two loops of two tests, ending with the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage, which finishes amid spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea. The four stages cover 39.30km.

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