Jari-Matti Latvala has secured the early lead on Rally d'Italia Sardegna after setting the pace on two of the opening three stages on the Mediterranean island.
Benefitting from his position on the road, the BP Ford Abu Dhabi driver set the pace on the opening test of the morning and then repeated the feat on the final stage of the loop to return to service with a lead of 14.6secs at the head of the field.
“Our times have been getting better, so it's looking quite good,” he said. “I'm not totally happy with the set-up yet, so we'll be looking at that back in service.”
Latvala's lead is over Sebastien Loeb, who moved up to second on the final stage of the morning ahead of the second Ford of Mikko Hirvonen, with the Frenchman admitting he was doing everything he could to stay in touch out front having been forced to act as road-sweeper during the morning.
Hirvonen had been due to start the event running third on the road, but ended up running second behind Loeb after Dani Sordo was late starting stage one – incurring a 30 second penalty and dropping behind Hirvonen in the running order. Sordo claimed that the issue was down to the turbo on his C4 WRC although he was still able to go on and post the third quickest time on SS1 and went quickest on SS2.
“It looks like Citroen are doing the same trick as they did in New Zealand last year,” Hirvonen said during the morning, “but that's the name of the game I suppose.”
Hirvonen ended the morning loop 3.7secs behind Loeb in third place, although Sordo lies down in ninth having lost more time on SS3 after damaging his suspension when he hit a rock.
Petter Solberg sits fourth and is little over 20 seconds off the pace despite losing time on the opening stage of the morning when he suffered from an overheating issue on his Citroen Xsara, while Sebastien Ogier moved ahead of Citroen Junior Team stablemate Evgeny Novikov into fifth on stage three. The pair lie just ahead of the Adapta Subaru of Mads Ostberg after a solid morning for the Norwegian despite the youngster admitting he wasn't totally happy with the handling of his car.
Henning Solberg sits eighth ahead of Sordo and Khalid Al Qassimi, with Conrad Rautenbach in eleventh, Federico Villagra twelfth and Matthew Wilson 13th – the latter having been slowed by a hydraulic issue.
The PWRC lead is held by Patrick Flodin after he moved to the head of the pack on stage three from Armindo Araujo and Patrik Sandell. Nasser Al-Attiyah had led the way until the final stage of the morning when he lost nearly 30 seconds to Flodin an slipped back to fourth place.
In the JWRC, Martin Prokop stormed through SS3 over 20 seconds quicker than anyone else to lead Alessandro Bettega by 37.5secs, while Michal Kosciuszko lies third.