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Tänak Grabs Italy Lead as Tyre Decision Hinders Ogier

01/06/2024

Morning Loop Report: Rally Italia Sardegna Day 2

Ott Tänak emerged victorious in a dramatic battle with overnight leader Sébastien Ogier on Saturday morning, securing the lead of Rally Italia Sardegna by a slim margin of 3.5 seconds at the day’s midpoint.

In a gripping first half of the penultimate day of this sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship season, Tänak and Ogier exchanged the lead three times over four stages. Ogier’s fortunes took a downturn when his decision to carry only one spare wheel in his Toyota GR Yaris led to a deflation on the first stage at Tempio Pausania. This forced the Frenchman to complete the remaining three tests on heavily worn tyres, a daunting task given the abrasive and increasingly rough road surface.

In contrast, Hyundai driver Tänak, better equipped with six Pirelli tyres, won the final two stages of the morning loop. Despite Tänak’s advantage, Ogier remained close behind, cautiously managing his tyres to avoid further damage.

“It’s like driving without power steering, and the car is so, so difficult to drive,” Tänak remarked about the rough conditions in Tula 2. “I am quite exhausted at the moment.”

Ogier echoed the sentiment, saying, “It’s been a tough loop, and this last stage I have never seen so rough.”

There was almost double delight for Hyundai after Thierry Neuville surged from fifth to third. However, the championship leader’s day came to an early end when he slid off the road at 15.5km into SS8 on a right-hand corner, leaving his car stuck. Neuville’s misfortune elevated Toyota’s Takamoto Katsuta to third overall. The Japanese driver had already overtaken Dani Sordo on SS6, and he completed the loop 17.1 seconds clear of the Hyundai-driving Spaniard.

Second in the points before this round, Elfyn Evans trailed Sordo by 23.0 seconds in fifth. The Welshman struggled to find a positive feeling inside his Toyota and completed SS8 with his car’s front right tyre pushed off the wheel rim.

In WRC2, Sami Pajari was a mighty sixth overall in his Rally2-specification Toyota. Behind the Finn were Grégoire Munster, Jan Solans, Nikolay Gryazin, and Martin Prokop.

SS5 Highlights:

  • Ogier: Lost precious seconds to Tänak, losing the rally lead by 0.1 seconds due to tyre damage.
  • Tänak: Set a fast pace, reclaiming the lead from Ogier.
  • Neuville: Set an early benchmark but struggled with sandy conditions.

SS6 Highlights:

  • Ogier: Reclaimed the lead from Tänak despite a tough start with tyre issues.
  • Tänak: Lost time due to careful driving in rough places.
  • Katsuta: Maintained his position with a careful run.

SS7 Highlights:

  • Ogier: Dropped time to Tänak, falling behind by 2.2 seconds.
  • Neuville: Set a fast time but faced a small intercom issue.

SS8 Highlights:

  • Ogier: Completed 1.3 seconds behind Tänak, pushing his Toyota to the limit.
  • Tänak: Maintained the rally lead with a tough stage, despite difficulties with the car.
  • Katsuta: Moved up into the podium places following Neuville’s issues.
  • Neuville: Stopped at 15.5km, slid off on a right-hand corner, car stuck.

Standings after SS8:

  1. O. Tänak – 01:51:09.7
  2. S. Ogier – +3.5sec
  3. T. Katsuta – +1min 17.5sec
  4. D. Sordo – +1min 34.6sec
  5. E. Evans – +1min 57.6sec
  6. S. Pajari (WRC2) – +3min 31.3sec

The morning loop of Day 2 in Rally Italia Sardegna has set the stage for an exciting and unpredictable afternoon, as drivers navigate the challenging conditions and fight for top positions. Stay tuned for more updates as the action unfolds!

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