Ogier pulls clear in Rally Italia

Sebastien Ogier leaving his rivals for dust in Rally Italia (Andreas SOLARO)
Sebastien Ogier leaving his rivals for dust in Rally Italia (Andreas SOLARO)

Sebastien Ogier surged clear of Ott Tanak in the Rally Italia on Saturday to close in on his third consecutive win of the year as Thierry Neuville slid off into retirement.

Eight-time world champion Ogier is only competing in a selection of rallies for Toyota in 2024.

But given the Frenchman's form no-one could blame him if he were tempted to have a full-blown tilt at a ninth title.

The 40-year-old held a slender 4.5sec lead overnight but by the end of play on Saturday in Sardinia, Ogier was 17.1sec clear of Tanak, the 2019 world champion from Estonia driving a Hyundai.

Quickest times in four of the middle day's eight stages left Tanak trailing.

"It has been a positive day, and an even more positive afternoon," said Ogier, a winner in Croatia and Portugal.

"This morning's stages were very rough, but I enjoyed the afternoon so much more and it was a pleasure to drive the car."

While Ogier was enjoying his time on the Mediterranean island, Neuville was under a black cloud.

The Belgian, who was leading the world championship before this sixth round of the season, misjudged a braking point on stage eight with his Hyundai sliding off, his rally over.

Rally Italia standings on Saturday

1. Sebastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (FRA/Toyota) 2hr 39min 43.2sec, 2. Ott Tänak/Martin Jarveoja (EST/Hyundai) at 17.1, 3. Daniel Sordo/Candido Carrera (ESP/Hyundai) 2:12.8, 4. Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (GBR/Toyota) 2:43.3, 5. Gregoire Munster/Louis Louka (LUX-BEL/M-Sport Ford) 5:28.8, 6. Adrien Fourmaux/Alexandre Coria (FRA/M-Sport Ford) 16:6.3