Lappi leads in Sardinia after Friday stages

After a tough days' rallying where FIA World Rally Championship crews covered over 140km of rough gravel stages in changeable weather conditions, the dueling duo found themselves separated by a mere one-tenth of a second. Ogier, contesting his fourth rally this year aboard a Toyota GR Yaris, started on the front foot and led by a seemingly comfortable 16.3sec at the day's halfway point having blitzed his Finnish rival through the first pass of Monte Lerno, a whopping 49.90km in length.

But the Frenchman's advantage began to erode when the same three speed tests were repeated after lunch and Lappi, charging hard in his Hyundai i20 N, delivered the perfect response in Monte Lerno 2 - ultimately claiming the lead in the day's finale. Despite grappling with an intermittently functioning handbrake, Thierry Neuville fought his way up the leaderboard to make it two Hyundai's in the top three. The Belgian trailed Ogier by 18.5sec at close of play with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä another 27.5sec behind.

Rovanperä had entered the final stage down in seventh overall but the wet conditions played to the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver's favour - and to his early starting position. He posted the benchmark time, climbing three positions in the process. Just 1.3sec behind was Takamoto Katsuta, who suffered a fright in the morning loop when he hit a rock after running wide in a left-hand bend. The mishap cost around 20sec and kept his Toyota mechanics busy in service.

A front right puncture towards the end of Monte Lerno left Elfyn Evans 18.2sec behind his team-mate in sixth overall. He headed M-Sport Ford's Ott Tänak in seventh, who overcame a failing water pump, by 4.2sec. WRC2 runners Sami Pajari, Adrien Fourmaux and Emil Lindholm completed the top 10 while Dani Sordo languished in 12th overall. The Spaniard completed a slow roll his Hyundai in SS4, losing more than three minutes in the process while he and co-driver Candido Carrera rolled the car back onto its wheels before continuing.

Pierre-Louis Loubet was Friday's only casualty. Initially running third overall, the Frenchman incurred a three-minute time penalty when he couldn't engage any gears prior to the start of SS5. Although the issue was swiftly resolved, Loubet faced further frustrations later in the day when he beached his Puma in a Monte Lerno ditch.

Saturday's exciting leg boasts double runs of Coiluna - Loelle (16.28km), Su Filigosu (19.57 km), Erula - Tula (21.92km) and Tempio Pausania (9.04 km). In total, the eight tests add up to 133.62km.

2nd June, 2023