Day 2: Thierry and Nicolas reduce the gap to rally leader Ogier
As the Sardinian sun made a welcome return on Saturday, things started to heat up on the stages with close battles for position up and down the order.
Saturdays schedule consisted of a three-stage loop, repeated in the afternoon. Starting with the 14.95km Coiluna-Loelle test, the route moved onto longer runs through Monti di Ala (28.52km) and Monte Lerno (29.11km) including the iconic Mickys Jump.
Our Belgian crew registered three more stage wins on the penultimate day, including both Monte Lerno stages, as they cut their gap to leader Sébastien Ogier to just 3.9 seconds. It was a signal of intent from Thierry and Nicolas as they chase their third win of 2018.
Up front and fighting
We have had a strong performance and a good feeling inside the car, commented Thierry. The mechanics have done an amazing job. Weve taken fewer risks today but still been able to push. We have set up a great fight with Sébastien. It will be full attack on Sunday.
Having struggled on Friday, Hayden and Seb were able to show more representative pace, particularly on the morning loop. They moved into the top-four overall but will have to fend off a feisty Mads Østberg on Sunday with only 2.1-seconds splitting them.
We have definitely enjoyed the conditions more than we did on Friday, said Hayden. We tried to keep the pressure on Mads and its going to be a close-run final morning. We wont be doing anything foolish but well do our best to defend our place.
Re-joining under Rally 2, it was a learning day for our Norwegians Andreas and Anders. A spin in SS12 and a puncture in SS16 (Monte Lerno 1 and 2) were the downsides to an otherwise decent day.
We knew there wasnt going to be much to challenge for, said Andreas. Instead, we wanted to find a good feeling and carry out some learning for next year. Theres not much more we could have done in the circumstances.
Our Team Principal Michel also had a special word for our mechanics: They have worked incredibly hard this weekend. We took the decision to change the fuel tank on Thierrys car at lunchtime service, and they did this in just ten minutes an impressive feat that has allowed us to remain in the hunt for victory.
Classification after Day Two
1S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia(Ford Fiesta WRC) 3:02:16.9
2T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul(Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)+3.9
3E. Lappi / J. Ferm(Toyota Yaris WRC) +54.2
4H. Paddon / S. Marshall(Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)+2:01.8
5M. Østberg / T. Eriksen(Citroën C3 WRC) +2:03.9
6C. Breen / S. Martin(Citroën C3 WRC) +3:13.6