Sebastien Ogier kept alive his world title bid by taking the lead in the last round of the world rally championship at Monza after Saturday morning’s three opening stages.
The French driver clocked the fastest time in the season-closing rally’s seventh special, with Dani Sordo taking the next and Ogier’s Toyota teammate and title favourite Elfyn Evans, annexing the next.
The morning’s action left Ogier in command by 6.7seconds from Sordo, with Evans third at 7.5sec.
Evans arrived at Monza with a 14 point advantage over Ogier in the title race to this coronavirus-disrupted season.
Whilst the permutations are plenty, Welsh driver Evans is guaranteed his first WRC crown — should Ogier win — if he finishes second.
If Ogier wins and Evans finishes third or fourth then it all goes down to Sunday’s closing Power Stage with its five-point bonus.
Six-time champion Ogier got off to a roaring start on the 25 kilometre mountainous seventh special at 900m altitude.
He was kicking himself in the next for being “too cautious” whilst Evans hit back in the ninth as the snow began to fall.
There are three more mountainous stages Saturday with a fourth scheduled at Monza’s Formula One circuit.
Rally Monza standings
1. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/Toyota) 1hh 33min 31.2sec, 2. Dani Sordo-Carlos del Barrio (ESP/Hyundai) at 6.7s, 3. Elfyn Evans-Scott Martin (GBR/Toyota) 7.5, 4. Ott Tänak-Martin Järveoja (EST/Hyundai) 15.7, 5. Esapekka Lappi-Janne Ferm (FIN/Ford) 18.5, 6. Kalle Rovanperä-Jonne Halttunen (FIN/Toyota) à 54.4
Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai), problème mécanique (SS4)
Special stage winners:
Ogier 3 (SS1, SS5, SS7), Sordo 3 (SS2, SS6, SS8), Lappi 1 (SS3), Evans 2 (SS4, SS9)