After another momentous day for the M-Sport Ford World Rally Team at Rally Italia Sardegna, Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tänak maintained their podium positions with just 16 kilometres left to run on the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
Contesting 115.92 competitive kilometres, the crews tackled two loops of three identical stages.
Posting a flurry of strong times and notching up another stage win for the team, the duo proved that they have the maturity as well as the speed and are on course to secure a record-breaking result for the Cumbrian team in second and third place respectively.
Despite losing time when the slippery conditions forced his Ford Fiesta RS WRC into a spin on SS11, the Russian maintained his second place with a margin of almost 50 seconds to team-mate Tänak. Set to take his second runner-up spot of the season, Novikov kept it tidy over the afternoon loop.
With another string of top-ten times, the Muscovite avoided the pitfalls which had befallen some of the most experienced crews on the previous day’s rallying and maintains his position going into the event’s final phase.
Showing real maturity, Tänak and co-driver Kuldar Sikk complimented their raw pace with an abundance of composure over the morning loop.
Finding a comfortable rhythm and keeping his Ford Fiesta RS WRC well out of trouble, the Estonian posted a host of top-five times.
With the 25-year-old refusing to be fazed by a momentary electrical issue, Tänak took 16.3 seconds out of Novikov’s lead on SS9 – followed by a further 7.6 second advantage on SS11 – to trail second place by 49.9 seconds going into the day’s final stages.
On course for his best ever result and very first podium as part of the WRC, Tänak took caution to safeguard his position over the afternoon.
Taking care through the rut-strewn stages and avoiding the treacherous rocks that had been pulled onto the racing line, the Estonian retained his third place with almost a minute and half advantage over Mads Østberg in fourth.
With just two short stages remaining in the 2012 edition of Rally Italia, the M-Sport duo will be looking to hold station tomorrow as they strive to bring home a double podium for the entire team.
Evgeny Novikov (2nd) said: “This afternoon has been quite good, and the grip was a little better on all of the stages. We have had the same plan we had in the morning – taking no big risks and making sure we got through all of the stages.
“Tomorrow we will just drive as usual, stay cool, and hopefully bring back this good result.”
Ott Tänak (3rd) said: “Today has been OK. It was a lot easier in the morning because the stages were quite smooth and there weren’t a lot of rocks lying around.
But this afternoon was a bit tougher and I didn’t feel so comfortable – I was just trying to get through. It was quite rough and I am feeling everything and looking out for anything that could get in our way!
“For sure I am looking forward to tomorrow. There is only 16 kilometres but they are still proper stages so it will not be so easy. I will just have to stay concentrated and keep it going!”
Source: M-Sport Ford World Rally Team