PHOTO: Cagliari’s harbour-front was the setting for the opening Special stage of Rally Italia Sardegna (WRC pic)
MARTIN Prokop was the surprise winner of Thursday night’s opening Special Stage at Rally Italia Sardegna when he sped to fastest time over the harbour streets in the island’s capital city, Cagliari.
Tens of thousands of fans saw the privately-entered Czech driver go quickest by 1.3sec in a Ford Fiesta RS, outpacing Robert Kubica’s similar car in the two-at-a-time 2.50km asphalt test.
Dani Sordo, fastest in the morning shakedown, was second quickest in a Hyundai i20 but the Spaniard incurred a 10sec penalty for a jump-start to fall well down the order.
Andreas Mikkelsen was third in a Volkswagen Polo R, 1.7sec behind Prokop.
The Norwegian beat Thierry Neuville in their heat but the Belgian was fourth, a further 1.2sec behind in his i20.
Ott Tänak was tied with Neuville but the Estonian reported a handbrake problem in his Fiesta RS, while Citroën’s Mads Østberg rounded off the top six in a DS3.
Both Kubica and Lorenzo Bertelli had to stop and reverse after missing a tight junction, while Khalid Al Qassimi hit the right rear wheel of his DS3 on a kerb.
After overnighting in Cagliari, competitors restart at 6.30am Friday, local time.
Friday’s route is totally new as it heads up the west coast via Oristano towards the rally base in Alghero, which hosts a mid-leg service.
Four morning gravel stages are repeated in the afternoon, with an extra test taking the competitive distance to 133.50km.