Sébastien Ogier leads championship leader Thierry Neuville by just 3.9s going into Sunday’s final day of action in the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna.
The pair continued to trade fastest stage times throughout seven stages on Saturday, with Ogier having his 18.9s overnight lead cut to just 4.9s by the time the crews serviced after four stages after deciding to try and take a cautious approach in his bid to win in Italy.
Ogier was the first to then hit a problem as he stalled his M-Sport Ford Fiesta on SS13 before Neuville then suffered a puncture on the following stage, costing both drivers vital seconds in their pursuit of the win. Neuville took the decision to keep attacking despite having no spare tyre onboard for the last two stages of the day.
Ogier said on his performance: “It was a big push for me this afternoon because I was so angry with the last stage this morning. All the time I lost to Thierry was there. There’s pressure but it’s been like that all weekend and if we want to win we’ll have to fight for it.”
The battle for third took another twist as well on Saturday as Esapekka Lappi now lies in the last podium position going into the final day as Toyota teammate Jari-Matti Latvala suffered an alternator issue caused by hitting a rock after he’d finished the final stage of the day seemingly in third.
Him and co-driver Miikka Anttila tried everything they could to fix the Yaris WRC to get it to the overnight halt, but they couldn’t fix the problem and were cruelly forced to retire giving Lappi a comfortable third going into Sunday’s stages.
Behind Lappi is another close battle as Hayden Paddon sits just 2.1s ahead of returning Citroen driver Mads Østberg. The pair have been close throughout Saturday, with the Hyundai driver leapfrogging the Norwegian on stage 12 and has stayed ahead since.
The second Citroen of Craig Breen sits sixth overall at the end of day three, ahead of WRC2 leader Jan Kopecký who took over from Stephane Lefebvre who retired on SS11 with suspension damage.
Hyundai driver Niclolas Ciamin is second in WRC2, with Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby third.
Sunday sees the crews tackle four more stages totalling a total of 42.04km.