SÉBASTIEN OGIER GRABBED AN EARLY LEAD AT RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA ON THURSDAY NIGHT AFTER WINNING THE HEADLINE HEAT AGAINST ARCH-RIVAL THIERRY NEUVILLE IN THE OPENING SPEED TEST.Driving a Ford Fiesta, Ogier defeated the Belgian by 0.7sec in their head-to-head duel at the rain-soaked Ittiri Arena. He took a slender 0.1sec lead over Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen, who beat Ott Tänak in the previous heat.
“The plan is to try to do a good weekend. We had really good speed at the last round in Portugal but finished without any points. Speed is not enough, we need to bring back the consistency,” said Ogier.
Neuville’s performance in a Hyundai i20 was good enough to place him third in the standings, 0.6sec behind team-mate Mikkelsen.
Elfyn Evans beat Esapekka Lappi to claim fourth in another Fiesta, with Kiwi Hayden Paddon and Lappi rounding off the top six in the overall positions.
Craig Breen was the only big name to have a problem. The Irishman stalled his Citroen C3 and languished in 13th position overnight, 6.4sec behind Ogier.
Big crowds braved the rain and with forecasts suggesting more rain overnight, conditions for tomorrow’s opening leg could be far removed from those traditionally experienced on the sun-kissed Mediterranean island.
The action continues with two loops of four tests north-east of the Alghero service park totalling 124.18km. Drivers regard it as the toughest leg of the event, the abrasive roads demanding careful tyre management.