OGIER BUILDS CORSICA LEAD; LOEB RETURNS WITH THREE STAGE WINS

//OGIER BUILDS CORSICA LEAD; LOEB RETURNS WITH THREE STAGE WINS

OGIER BUILDS CORSICA LEAD; LOEB RETURNS WITH THREE STAGE WINS

MASTERFUL Frenchman Sébastien Ogier remains on target to win the Corsica Linea – Tour de Corse after another solid day of building his lead in the FIA World Rally Championship’s fourth round.

Without ever needing to drive flat out, the 2018 championship leader ended Saturday with a 44.5sec advantage after six speed tests in the northernmost tip of the Mediterranean island.

PHOTO: Where’s he really bin? Esapekka Lappi races a Corsican village home on his way to two stage wins on Saturday (Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Media pic)

In contrast to Friday, when the world champion won three of the four speed tests in his Ford Fiesta, he drew a blank on the second day, preferring a measured pace which still proved sufficient to leave him with a comfortable lead ahead of Sunday’s finale.

“Anything can always happen but I don’t take the extra risk and I feel like I’m still in control,” Ogier said.

“I feel comfortable, but if someone says they are 100 percent in control they’re lying. We must stay focused.”

A fierce fight for second involving four drivers ended with Ott Tänak snatching position by a tenth of a second from Thierry Neuville in the final Novella stage as Kris Meeke crashed his Citroën C3 into retirement due to a pace note misunderstanding.

Neuville and Meeke started the 17.39km stage tied in second. Handling issues blighted Neuville all afternoon after set-up changes had an adverse effect on his Hyundai i20, and Estonian Tänak capitalised to leap from fourth to second in the final kilometres.

The disappointment was acute for Meeke, the third year in succession that the Ulsterman has retired on this stage.

Just 10.3sec further behind in fourth was Esapekka Lappi. The Finn produced the drive of the day in his Toyota Yaris after suspension and differential changes transformed his confidence. He won two stages to reel in those ahead and has a podium in his sights.

Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans were evenly matched all day. Sordo ended fifth in his i20, with a 3.1sec advantage over the Welshman who lost time after stalling his Fiesta’s engine and being too hesitant on the tricky mountain roads.

Sébastien Loeb, returning after yesterday’s crash, won three stages in his C3 but remains outside the top 10.

Sunday’s finale comprises just two stages, but brings a sting in the tail. The opening 55.17km test from Vero to Sarrola-Carcopino is the longest in the rally since 1986. It is followed by the live TV Power Stage, with bonus points for the fastest five drivers.

Standings after day two (Saturday):

1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2h43m07.7s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +44.5s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +44.6s
4 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.9s
5 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m46.7s
6 Elfyn Evans/Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m49.8s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m13.5s
8 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +8m22.9s
9 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +10m41.4s
10 Fabio Andolfi/Simone Scattolin (Skoda Fabia R5) +11m27.2s

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.