RALLY ITALY

JARI-MATTI LAT­VALA

Motor Sport News - - Round - Pho­tos: mck­lein-im­age­database.com

RALLY ES­SEN­TIALS

Day one: 65.16 miles; 9 stages Weather: Sunny 15-29 cel­sius ■ Se­bastien Ogier knows full well he’s onto a hid­ing to noth­ing here, but he’s de­ter­mined to lead the rally – so he’s flat chat through Thurs­day night’s su­per­spe­cial. A spir­ited ef­fort in SS3 lands him the lead once more, but af­ter that, he’s a lamb to the slaugh­ter. ■ Jari-matti Lat­vala and Thierry Neuville move to the front of the field, with their neat, tidy and quick ap­proach aided by start­ing sixth and eighth re­spec­tively. Af­ter six changes of the lead in the first nine stages, it’s Neuville who is lead­ing at the end of the open­ing day. ■ Third-placed Ogier takes sat­is­fac­tion in beat­ing those clos­est to him on the road: An­dreas Mikkelsen and Mads Ost­berg, who run fourth and fifth. The Nor­we­gians are split by just a sin­gle sec­ond as M-sport World Rally Team driver Ost­berg rev­els in a Ford Fi­esta RS WRC which is in­spir­ing more con­fi­dence than ever. ■ Last time out in Por­tu­gal, Hay­den Pad­don went from hero to zero, hav­ing won the pre­vi­ous round in Ar­gentina. He’s slumped a lit­tle fur­ther this time around, com­pre­hen­sively crash­ing the new­est of New Gen­er­a­tion i20s Hyundai had built on stage seven. ■ There’s more mis­ery for Hyundai when Kevin Ab­bring and his Bri­tish co-driver Se­bas­tian Mar­shall are slowed by a bro­ken prop­shaft, which leaves their 2015-spec i20 with drive to the front wheels only. Eric Camilli can re­late to that, he spends a sim­i­lar amount of the morn­ing in twowheel drive af­ter the rear diff on his Fi­esta lets go. Con­tin­ued from page 23

“I am very di­rect and if he does some­thing which doesn’t please me then I will tell him,” he said. “The Bel­gian me­dia made a lot of talk­ing about what we had said. They said Thierry and I don’t get along, that’s not true. I am happy for him. He made a good win. And look how things change: two ral­lies ago, it was all about Hay­den, but now it’s two crashes and it’s not so good for him – the pic­ture is al­ways chang­ing.” needed big points on the Ital­ian is­land last week. That the pair of them were still out front on Satur­day night sur­prised more than a few on­look­ers. Sordo be­ing one of them.

“It’s a good fight,” said Sordo, “but nor­mally those guys are com­ing hot up here and then go­ing down here.”

Rais­ing his hand up and down, to in­di­cate Span­ish sign­ing for win or bust. “But it’s good,” he said, “good guys.”

Sordo fin­ished one place off the podium in fourth. The bot­tom step was Ogier’s. Ex­tend­ing his points lead for the sixth event in suc­ces­sion gave the num­ber one Polo driver some­thing smile about. Just.

“The story’s the same,” Ogier said mid-way through Satur­day. “All I do is fight with those around me: An­dreas [Mikkelsen] and Mads [Ost­berg]. I’m beat­ing them, so I’m happy.”

The last line was de­liv­ered al­most as a chal­lenge, would any­body dare ask him about an over­all po­si­tion? Deep breath and give it a go.

“What?” he said, “fight with the lead­ers, it’s not pos­si­ble. How would it be pos­si­ble?” It wasn’t pos­si­ble. Ogier did the best he could, which, it’s fair to say, is some way clear of the best the rest could man­age. There was an over­shoot on the first Sun­day stage and a record-break­ing run through the pow­er­stage; the world cham­pion be­came the first man to take the three points af­ter us­ing re­verse in the fi­nal stage.

Was he dis­tracted? Pos­si­bly. But he could be for­given, his wife An­drea is about to go into labour with their first child and Ogier had made it quite plain that he’d be wind­ing the pri­vate jet up the minute any­body men­tioned the words ‘bro­ken’ and ‘wa­ters’ in the same sen­tence.

He fin­ished the rally and made a more leisurely jour­ney to Mu­nich than might have been the case.

What of Ogier’s near­est chal­lengers? Mikkelsen and Ost­berg both fell to big rocks on Satur­day af­ter­noon. Par­tic­u­larly frus­trat­ing for the M-sport driver, who found form with the Ford Fi­esta RS WRC and had just set a blis­ter­ing time through Monte Lerno be­fore one of Sar­dinia’s heftier boul­ders broke a drive­shaft, which broke the en­gine.

It was any­thing but doom and gloom in Cum­bria,as Eric Camilli de­liv­ered the drive of his life to score his maiden fastest time. He would have been a gen­uine podium con­tender had it not been for a bro­ken dif­fer­en­tial on day one.

For once, there was noth­ing bro­ken for Neuville. Asked if there had been many mo­ments, the win­ner thought long and hard – Hyundai’s 50,000 euro (£39,000) fine for run­ning a left-rear win­dow which didn’t con­form to ho­molo­ga­tion pa­pers didn’t count. “I had one big slide on Fri­day,” he said, “but that was it.” Se­ri­ously?

“It’s true, just one slide,” he said. “I tell you, this one was un­der con­trol.”

Neuville’s al­ways been one of the ser­vice park’s more like­able lads, which is why the cheer was so loud when he crossed the line on Sun­day af­ter­noon. “His feet,” said Pe­nasse, “are on the earth again.”

Not for long. He and Gil­soul were hurled into the har­bour in what’s be­come a tra­di­tional Sar­dinian cel­e­bra­tion. Rarely has sea­wa­ter tasted so good. ■

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