It was clear from the start of the afternoon lap that everything could still change at Rally Italia Sardegna 2023, but what happened in SS14 will probably remain in the history of this WRC season.
Sébastien Ogier and Vincent Landais, leader of the event until the start of the stage, went off the road after just over a kilometer from the start. In pouring rain – the same experienced by all the drivers – the French crew ended up forced to retire with the number 17 GR Yaris Rally1 stuck in the Sardinian vegetation of the 21.92 km long Erula – Tua 1.
The mud betrayed Ogier in a test section that didn’t seem particularly treacherous. Ogier sketched the very long left-hander, but the Yaris went straight off the road without following the maneuver of the 8-times world champion. At that point the Yaris got stuck and there was nothing for the crew to do but note a bitter withdrawal.
With the KO of Ogier, the doors of the one-two for Hyundai Motorsport are wide open. Dani Sordo won the special, making good use of his perfect starting position to be able to take advantage of the less muddy ground than the riders who entered after him found. But it was Thierry Neuville’s special that made the difference.
The Belgian entered practice before Ogier, with the clear intention of putting pressure on him and his teammate Esapekka Lappi. For this reason, he was unable to see his rival going off the road, or have any news about it. Neuville pushed to the end, finishing with an excellent second time given his certainly not favorable starting position.
Esapekka Lappi, on the other hand, got to see Ogier’s Yaris off the road. At that point he decided not to take risks signing the third time, but losing 26″9 from Neuville. In this way the Belgian became the new leader of the event and can now boast a margin of 23″8 over his Finnish teammate . It is also the eighth leader change of the weekend, for an unpredictable rally to say the least.
Thanks to Ogier’s retirement, Kalle Rovanpera took advantage of it to climb in the podium area. Now the reigning world champion is third, even if one minute and 11 seconds behind the second place occupied by Lappi. Behind him the second surviving Toyota GR Yaris, that of Elfyn Evans. Closes the Top 5 Dani Sordo, author of the scratch in this test.
In WRC2 another great race allows Adrien Fourmaux to further extend his rivals. The M-Sport driver, although he tried to manage his lead without making mistakes, set an excellent time, doing better than all his category rivals.
Andreas Mikkelsen, first of the pursuers, lost another 9 seconds from the Frenchman and now, in the general classification, his delay amounts to 24 seconds. Third solo Teemu Suninen with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2.
Rally Italia Sardegna – WRC 2023 – Classification after SS14
|1||Neuville/Wydaeghe||Hyundai 20N Rally2||3h03’13”8|
|2||Lappi/Ferm||Hyundai 20N Rally2||+23″8|
|3||Rovanpera/Halttunen||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+1’35″7|
|4||Evans/Martin||Toyota GR Yaris Rally1||+5’24″2|
|5||Deaf/Carrera||Hyundai 20N Rally2||+6’17″1||+1’20”|
|6||Fourmaux/Coria||Ford Fiesta Rally2||+7’51″7|
|7||Mikkelsen/Eriksen||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+8’15″7|
|8||Suninen/Markkula||Hyundai i20N Rally2||+10’22″7|
|9||Lindholm/Hamalainen||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+10’44″1|
|10||Kajetanowicz/Szczpaniak||Skoda Fabia RS Rally2||+11’03″3|
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