Neuville leads Rally Italy after two days

Neuville leads Rally Italy after two days
By AutoSport

12/06/2016 at 01:58

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville will take a 16.1s lead over Jari-Matti Latvala into the final day of Rally Italy as he bids to claim his second World Rally Championship win.

Neuville started Saturday afternoon's loop with a slender lead over Volkswagen driver Latvala, but immediately pulled out 10.8 seconds on SS13, the second run through Monti Di Ala.

Latvala was able to take 0.8s out of the leader on SS14, but Neuville ensured he would head into the final day with a healthy margin on the day's final Monte Lerno stage - the rally's longest - with his seventh stage win of the rally, adding a further 3.2s to his advantage in his Hyundai i20.

Volkswagen's Latvala remains within striking distant, but with Sunday's competitive running totalling less than Saturday's 27.5-mile final test, looks destined for second.

Having taken SS13 conservatively, the Finn admitted at the end of Monte Lerno that he could not have pushed harder.

Behind the pair, WRC championship leader Sebastien Ogier sits a lonely third, the three-time champion having pushed hard despite the handicap of running first on the road.

Ogier is the best part of a minute behind team-mate Latvala, but looks well set to score his sixth podium from as many rallies in 2016.

He had been embroiled in a three-way fight for third heading into the afternoon, before nearest challengers Mads Ostberg and Andreas Mikkelsen both fell away thanks to problems.

Ogier's team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen was the first to fall out of the fight after retiring on the penultimate stage of the day.

Mikkelsen had been up on Ogier's benchmark split times, but hit a rock between the final split of the stage and the finish, and was forced to retire from the day's action.

He had been handed a 10-second penalty before the start of the afternoon loop for leaving service late, but was within 20s of his team-mate in third.

That left Ogier and Ostberg battling for the place, but the latter parked his M-Sport Ford Fiesta RS before the end of the Monte Lerno stage with an undiagnosed problem before confirming his retirement from the rally.

Dani Sordo will head into the final day in fourth, the Spaniard having battled a sticking throttle and overheating problems.

Those retirements also promoted Ott Tanak to fifth, the Estonian keeping his Fiesta going despite a number of issues with DMACKs tyres throughout the rally.

Henning Solberg sits sixth, 5m32s behind Neuville and 40-odd seconds behind Tanak, while Ostberg's team-mate Eric Camilli is seventh.