Italy WRC: Paddon leads close five-way fight
Hayden Paddon holds a narrow gap at the end of Friday in Rally Italy, with the top five separated by 14.7s overall.
There were six cars in the battle for the top position, but Juho Hanninen went off on the final stage of the day, SS9 Tergu-Osilo, having started the test in second position, 7.9s behind Paddon.
Hanninen will start Saturday 38 seconds behind Paddon in sixth, if the car makes it back to overnight service.
Despite suffering what he believed to be a broken front damper on SS7, Paddon nursed his car to finish the day with a lead of 8.2s.
He leads the rally from Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville, who drove brilliantly despite having had to sweep the roads by being the second car in the running order, and also suffering a puncture on SS7.
M-Sport driver Ott Tanak moved onto the top three, pumping in a rapid stage time on the last test of the day thanks to taking an extra tyre, meaning his car was heavy for most of the loop, but had more grip at the end.
He heads Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala by just 0.3s, the Finn having a much better afternoon than morning, going from 21s adrift to being just 9.8s off the lead.
Fifth-placed Mads Ostberg, also just 14.7s behind Paddon, wasn’t particularly happy with his afternoon, struggling with the rear end of his Ford Fiesta, but the result proved contrary to his thoughts on his progress.
With Hanninen relegated to sixth, Sebastien Ogier, whose day was ruined by opening the road, holds seventh, just three seconds behind the Finn.
Esapekka Lappi followed up his first ever WRC fastest time in the morning loop by topping two more in the afternoon before breaking a damper.
He still managed to be second quickest in his Toyota Yaris on the final test of the day to sit eighth overnight.
Andreas Mikkelsen continued his tough day of adaptation to the Citroen C3 WRC, driving a 2017-spec WRC car for the first time, as he completed Friday in ninth place.
Rounding out the top 10 is Eric Camilli in his Ford Fiesta R5, although the Frenchman isn’t registered for the WRC2 category the car and driver usually compete in.
Instead, Jan Kopecky leads that class in his Skoda Fabia R5, by 52.7s over fellow Skoda driver Ole Christian Veiby.
Standings after SS9
|3||Ott Tanak||M-Sport Ford||+9.5|
|5||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport Ford||+14.7|
|7||Sebastien Ogier||M-Sport Ford||+41.0|
|10||Eric Camilli||Ford R5||+4m08.0|
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Italy WRC: Paddon maintains small lead, Neuville hits trouble