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Sunday, June 23, 2024
HomeRallyWRC- Lappi Edges Ogier In Thrilling Friday Sardinian Showdown

WRC- Lappi Edges Ogier In Thrilling Friday Sardinian Showdown

Esapekka Lappi demoted Sébastien Ogier in a gripping conclusion to Friday’s opening leg by claiming the tiniest of overnight leads on Rally Italia Sardegna.

After one of the most challenging days so far in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship, where crews tackled more than 140 kilometres of rough gravel stages in changeable weather conditions, the duelling duo reached the overnight halt in Olbia separated by a mere one-tenth of a second.

Ogier, contesting his fourth rally this year aboard a Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 Hybrid, started on the front foot and led by a seemingly comfortable 16.3s at the day’s halfway point having blitzed his Finnish rival through the first pass of Monte Lerno, a whopping 49.90 kilometres in length.

But the Frenchman’s advantage began to erode as the same three speed tests were repeated after lunch and Lappi, charging hard in his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid, delivered the perfect response in Monte Lerno 2 – ultimately claiming the lead through the day’s final stage.

“There was no need to push harder, one tenth is enough,” Lappi said at the completion of SS7. “I’m glad to be at the finish, that was quite a tricky stage and we got a slow left-rear puncture as well, so that started to disturb a bit. But we are here, everything is okay and we are looking forward to tomorrow.”

Despite grappling with an intermittently functioning handbrake, Thierry Neuville fought his way up the leaderboard to make it two Hyundais in the top three. The Belgian trails Ogier by 18.5s with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä another 27.5s behind.

Rovanperä had entered the final stage down in seventh overall, but the wet conditions played to the Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT driver’s favour – and to his early starting position. He posted the benchmark time, climbing three positions in the process.

Just 1.3s behind is 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 20s and kept his Toyota mechanics busy in service.

A front-right puncture towards the end of Monte Lerno 2 left Elfyn Evans 18.2s behind his team-mate in sixth overall. He heads M-Sport Ford’s Ott Tänak, who overcame a failing water pump, by 4.2s.

FIA WRC2 runners Sami Pajari, Adrien Fourmaux are eighth and ninth with Emil Lindholm completing the top 10 ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen. Pajari also heads the FIA WRC2 Challenger classification.

Dani Sordo languishes in 12th overall after he rolled his Hyundai on SS4, losing more than three minutes in the process.

Initially running third overall, Pierre-Louis Loubet picked 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’s rally ended later in the day when he beached his Puma in a Monte Lerno ditch, possibly as a result of a mechanical failure.

Meanwhile, Roope Korhonen leads FIA WRC3 with William Creighton ahead in FIA Junior WRC. Mauro Miele heads the WRC Masters Cup classification.

Saturday’s leg features double runs of Coiluna – Loelle (16.28km), Su Filigosu (19.57 km), Erula – Tula (21.92km) and Tempio Pausania (9.04 km). The eight tests add up to 133.62 kilometres.

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