Hayden Paddon has concluded day one of Rally Italia Sardegna still in the lead, but his advantage has been cut to just 8.8 seconds after scare in the final test of the leg.
Paddon took advantage of his road position and won three of the four stages this morning to build a 23 second cushion in his Hyundai i20 WRC and he more or less maintained that on the repeat loop, posting second best times in SS7 and SS9.
SS10, however, proved costly, and while he was third fastest, he trailed the Volkswagens of Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier by more than 10 seconds, allowing the latter to slash the gap.
“We were a little lucky,” Paddon told the official WRC site. “We had a problem with the left rear tyre or the suspension - I don't know exactly what - and on every left-hand corner we went wide and sideways. At one point we hit a bank and from then we backed off - and we lost a lot of time. I'm not sure what the problem was – something seems to be broken at the rear of the car.”
Asked if he can defend his lead on Saturday, the New Zealander replied: “Tomorrow is going to be tough. Many drivers know tomorrow's stages well, but we will have a road position advantage again, so we'll see if we can make the most of it again.”
Meanwhile, Ogier is right up there even though he had to run first in the order and sweep the roads for those behind. He was also a lot more competitive on the repeats – when his road position isn't quite so much of a disadvantage – and succeeded in winning SS9, while going second in SS6, SS8 and SS10.
“It has been fantastic. I am happy with today, and with the car. We had good information last night about the weather. Tomorrow is going to be quite long. It will not be easy to fight against Hayden as he is driving very well. We will see, even with two or three cars in front to do some road cleaning it is not going to be easy,” Ogier said.
Latvala is next up in third, slipping back in SS9 after picking up a left-rear puncture when he ran wide and a hit a bank. That error cost him 20 seconds and he finishes the leg 25.8s off the leader and 17s off Ogier.
“A small mistake cost me a lot,” admitted Latvala, who was quickest in SS6, SS8 and SS10 on the repeat loop. “It is disappointing, but all the other stages were fine. A little bit unlucky but it was my mistake. I will not give up. We need to be fighting, but it is going to be a very, very long day tomorrow. I must say Hayden has done a good job. It was a surprise really, but he has shown great speed.”
M-Sport's Ott Tanak now finds himself fourth, 31.3s adrift off the final podium position and over 50 seconds up on Mads Ostberg's Citroen DS 3 WRC in fifth.
“It has been really difficult for us but in the end we managed to get here without problems. We just need to keep pushing,” Tanak said.
“My tyres have absolutely nothing left now!” added Ostberg after SS10. “It's been a difficult day but I'm through it now and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I love the stages. For me though it's not rally - it's just endurance - but there's nothing I can do about that.”
Thierry Neuville has dropped back and is now sixth, 1.3s off Ostberg, after struggling with gearbox problems and a lose turbo pipe this afternoon. He also had to drive the last stage in road mode.
“I am happy I managed to get here,” said the Hyundai pilot, “and I'm happy with the changes I made to get us to the end. The turbo pipe went - like it did in Argentina last year - but this time I managed to keep us going.”
Dani Sordo completed the final stage in his Hyundai, albeit only on three wheels after losing the rear-left in an impact. His car will now be recovered to service. The Spaniard was provisionally
classified seventh after SS10, but will now drop back to P19.
“We hit something in a very slow corner in the last split and we lost the wheel,” he confirmed.
His misfortune will promote Thursday overnight leader Martin Prokop to seventh, with fellow Ford runners Lorenzo Bertelli and Elfyn Evans then slotting into eighth and tenth, the latter losing time this morning with transmission problems.
“We had one reasonable stage and that was about it,” Evans complained. ”It is difficult to get some confidence here. I think I have to try and start afresh tomorrow. You have to be clean or you are not coming back. It is going to be very long day on Saturday - we need to make the most of it.”
In WRC2, Paolo Andreucci leads – and is ninth overall, over a minute up on Armin Kremer. Yazeed Al-Rajhi holds third.
In terms of retirements, in addition to Sordo, the other 'big names' sidelined were Kris Meeke, Robert Kubica and Andreas Mikkelsen, all went out this morning.
Meeke damaged his suspension in the opening test of the day, before Kubica went off the road in SS3 and Mikkelsen, after breaking the right rear suspension when he hit a hole in SS4, retired for the day on the road section to SS5.
Rally Italia Sardegna now continues on Saturday, with nine more stages on the bill and a total competitive distance of 212.83km. SS11, the short Ittiri Arena 1 test, is scheduled to start at 06.57 hours local time. Full itinerary for round six in WRC 2015 available - HERE
2015 Rally Italia Sardegna: Overall standings after Stage 10 (Top 10):
1. Hayden Paddon
Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC 1h 35m 08.5s
2. Sebastien Ogier
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 08.8s
3. Jari-Matti Latvala
Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +0m 25.8s
4. Ott Tanak
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +0m 57.1s
5. Mads Ostberg
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +1m 50.4s
6. Thierry Neuville
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 51.7s
7. Martin Prokop
Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 10.3s
8. Lorenzo Bertelli
Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 07.7s
9. Paolo Andreucci
Peugeot 208 T16 +4m 07.8
10. Elfyn Evans
M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m 17.9s
11. Armin Kremer
Skoda Fabia R5 +5m 34.1s
12. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta RRC +5m 41.2s
13. Yuriy Protasov
Ford Fiesta RRC +6m 13.4s
14. Jan Kopecky
Skoda Fabia R5 +7m 06.7s
15. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari
Ford Fiesta RRC +8m 31.1s
16. Khalid Al Qassimi
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC +8m 41.7s
19. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC +1m 59.5s
#Classified under Rally 2.
WRC2 standings after Stage 10 (Top 3):
1. Paolo Andreucci
Peugeot 208 T16 1h 39m 06.3
2. Armin Kremer
Skoda Fabia R5 +1m 26.3s
4. Yazeed Al-Rajhi
Ford Fiesta RRC +1m 33.4s
SS2. Kris Meeke
Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS 3 WRC Suspension
SS3. Robert Kubica
Ford Fiesta RS WRC Accident
SS4/SS5. Andreas Mikkelsen
Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC Suspension
SS10. Dani Sordo
Hyundai Motorsport i20 WRC Lost in a wheel in final test – retired on road section afterwards
M denotes Manufacturer entry
all times unofficial