Rally Sardegna: Latvala leads Sardinia, Ogier drops out

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Jari-Matti Latvala leads Rally Italia Sardegna after the first loop of stages on Friday morning, heading a Toyota one-two with a 2.8 second advantage over Ott Tänak.

After Thursday evening’s rally-opening Super Special Ittiri on a former motorcross track, the crews took on a loop of four stages to the North-Eeast of Alghero, in temperatures well above 30°C.

Teemu Suninen claimed an early advantage, winning both SS2 and SS3, navigated by new co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, to build a lead of 10.6 seconds over the rest of the field.

But the M-Sport driver then had a spin in SS4, opening the door to Latvala. The Toyota driver did not waste the opportunity to snatch the lead in SS4 but a stall in SS5 reduced his advantage to a narrow margin over his team-mate Tänak.

Running second on the road, Tänak could only manage eighth fastest in SS2 and fell to fifth overall, but the flying Estonian showed great pace throughout the morning and took a stage win in SS4 to return to Alghero for the midday service in second position.

Dani Sordo suffered a slow rear-left puncture near the end of SS2, but the Hyundai driver finished the morning just 0.7s adrift of Tänak.

Elfyn Evans had made it an M-Sport one-two after the morning’s opening test but dropped back after reporting an issue with his braking. He is fourth, 2.4 seconds  behind Sordo and 1.8 seconds ahead of Suninen, who lost further time with a cautious run through SS5.

Thierry Neuville is sixth after choosing to carry two spare tyres, with Hyundai team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen in seventh equally unhappy with his tyre choice.

Kris Meeke struggled with his lack of recent experience on the Sardinian stages and is currently eighth overall in the third Toyota.

The Citroën team had a difficult morning with Esapekka Lappi in ninth after running wide and getting a puncture in SS4. The Finn took the stage win in SS5 but it didn’t help him to climb back up the order. Running first on the road, Sébastien Ogier was in ninth position overall when he hit a rock on the inside of a corner at the start of SS5 and damaged his front left suspension. The French was unable to repair his C3 WRC and had to retire for the day.

Juho Hänninen rounds out the top 10 on his return in a fourth Toyota.

Fresh from his FIA WRC 2 victory in Portugal, Pierre-Louis Loubet leads the category in Sardinia in 11th overall. He is ahead of the factory Škoda duo of Jan Kopecký and Kalle Rovanperä, who are first and second in FIA WRC 2 Pro.

Raul Badiu leads the FIA Junior WRC class, 7.5 seconds ahead of Jan Solans.

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