Sebastien Loeb leads Rally d'Italia after an eventful first day's rallying on the island of Sardinia.
Running first on the gravel roads as championship leader, the Citroen driver could only manage eighth fastest on the opening stage, Lago Omodeo. Petter Solberg was quickest in his privately-run DS3 WRC, but he would lose 40 seconds with a mechanical issue on SS2, Monte Grighini Nord.
This gave the rally lead to Mikko Hirvonen, who won SS2 in his Ford. Loeb shot up to P2, proceeding to take the lead from Hirvonen on SS4 Monte Grighini Sud, just before midday service. The gap was at 5.8 seconds after the first two repeat stages in the afternoon loop, but Hirvonen suffered a puncture on SS7 Monte Grighini Sud 2. The Finn lost 51 seconds and dropped to fourth overall, giving Loeb a lead of 33 seconds over teammate Sebastien Ogier.
Ogier backed off in the final stage of the day, SS8 Lago Omodeo 2, to drop himself to fourth to give himself a better road position for the second day. Hirvonen meanwhile bounced back from his puncture to win SS8, moving up to third, 19.9 seconds behind a recovering Solberg. The Norwegian lies 33.2 seconds behind Loeb going into Day 2.
Mads Ostberg lies fifth in the best of the M-Sport Stobart Fiestas, with Dani Sordo holding sixth in the debut for the Mini John Cooper Works WRC. Teammate Kris Meeke had been running in a lofty fourth position after SS2, before a technical problem caused him to hit a rock on SS3.
Jari-Matti Latvala's rally did not last long after he rolled on the opening stage, forcing him to stop during SS2. PG Andersson was third on the first stage on his return for Stobart, but had to stop on the second test, losing 16 minutes. Teammate Evgeny Novikov was running as high as third at midday service, but crashed out of fifth place on SS7. Henning Solberg suffered a variety of problems in his Stobart entry, engine problems eventually ending his day early. Federico Villagra retired his Munchi's entry on the opening stage after hitting a bridge.
The attrition amongst the WRC-spec Fiestas has left SWRC category leader Ott Tanak seventh in his Super 2000 Ford. Matthew Wilson is eighth in yet another Stobart Fiesta, with Tanak's nearest SWRC rival Martin Prokop ninth in his Fiesta S2000. Juho Hanninen rounds out the top ten in his Skoda Fabia.
Top ten positions after SS8:
|1.||1||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||1:27:47.0|
|2.||11||Petter Solberg||PSWRT||Citroen DS3 WRC||+33.2|
|3.||3||Mikko Hirvonen||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+53.1|
|4.||2||Sebastien Ogier||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||+55.5|
|5.||6||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+1:04.7|
|6.||37||Dani Sordo||Mini||Mini John Cooper Works WRC||+1:33.2|
|7.||22||Ott Tanak||MM Motorsport||Ford Fiesta S2000||+2:36.0|
|8.||5||Matthew Wilson||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:54.5|
|9.||21||Martin Prokop||Czech||Ford Fiesta S2000||+3:01.7|
|10.||25||Juho Hanninen||Red Bull Skoda||Skoda Fabia S2000||+3:19.8|