Ogier surges from fifth to lead in Italy

Ogier surges from fifth to lead in Italy
By AutoSport

09/06/2018 at 02:11

M-Sport's Sebastien Ogier mastered muddy conditions to vault from fifth to first place on Rally Italy, eclipsing his main World Rally Championship rival Thierry Neuville in second.

Reigning world champion Ogier made light work of his opponents through stage six, their first test following midday service.

Amid slippery conditions with standing water throughout, Ogier went 12.2 seconds faster than his next quickest opponent Esapekka Lappi and immediately moved into the lead having started the stage only fifth following a muted morning.

Andreas Mikkelsen had led into service but signs of trouble began immediately afterwards, an over-revving engine on gear-changes during SS6 a sign something was amiss.

Dropping to second place initially, he then retired altogether on the following test, his Hyundai unable to go further after stalling at a hairpin.

This moved Neuville - who had been demoted to third by Ogier - back into second, but he could not make any significant impact on his title rival's lead on the following stages.

Neuville's day almost ended in disaster. He ran wide on stage nine and ripped the rear wing from his Hyundai, before overshooting a junction shortly afterwards and dropping close to 10s. He ended Friday 18.9s behind Ogier.

Toyota had struggled to keep pace with Ogier and Neuville since the morning, though Ott Tanak had kept in contact with the leading pair despite turn-in issues in third place.

His push to keep up came to an end on stage nine, Friday's final test, when he landed nose-heavy over a flat-out jump and caused terminal damage to his Toyota.

Tanak's team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala inherited third place, being warned by Tanak himself to exercise caution over the jump that had caused his own retirement. Despite heeding that warning, Latvala still went quickest on SS9.

Esapekka Lappi moved into fourth as the chaotic final Friday stage claimed not only Tanak but also Teemu Suninen.

M-Sport's young talent went off-line and clipped a solid object, sending him off a steep bank and into bushes from which he could not escape.

What had been a close battle over seventh became a battle for fifth position, as Citroen part-timer Mads Ostberg arrested rapid time loss to Hayden Paddon behind to end Friday 3.2s ahead.

Craig Breen holds seventh despite a frustrating day aboard his Citroen C3. He stalled three times due to a handbrake issue on SS6, then overshot a chicane and had to reverse out one stage later.

Such was Friday's rate of attrition, WRC2 support category drivers now populate eighth through 10th places.

Former Citroen WRC factory driver Stephane Lefebvre leads WRC2 aboard his works-backed C3 R5, taking advantage of steering issues for previous leader Ole Christian Veiby's Skoda. Veiby's team-mate Jan Kopecky is ninth overall and second in class.

Elfyn Evans continued plugging away after losing 13 minutes in the morning with a broken steering arm, but is well outside the top 10 positions.

Follow day two of Rally Italy as it happens with Autosport Live from 7.30am UK time on Saturday

Leading positions after SS9