After temporary heavy rainfall on Thursday and Friday, on early Saturday morning the sun returned to the beautiful harbour of Alghero in the northwest of Sardinia. The day featured the longest leg of the rally with seven special stages covering more than 146 kilometres. Due to the rain of the days before, some passages of the stages were still muddy and slippery on the first run in the morning. After the roughly 15 kilometres long special number ten, two classic tests were waiting for the crews, each nearly double the distance: the “Monti di Ala” and the famous “Monte Lerno” stage which is the longest stage of the rally with exactly 28.89 kilometres.
The ŠKODA works crews started the Saturday leg with different missions. While second placed Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler tried to put the leading Citroën driver Lefebvre under pressure, their young teammates Ole Christian Veiby and Stig Rune Skjaermœn wanted to recover from their Friday’s mishap. Leading in the WRC 2 category after the first five stages, they were delayed by a suspension issue and dropped down to eighth position.
And both ŠKODA works crews had an encouraging start into the Saturday. While Kopecký was second quickest and reduced the gap to the leader to 12.2 seconds, Veiby set the first fastest time of the Saturday morning. On the next stage, Kopecký’s rival in the fight for the lead, Citroën driver Lefebvre, damaged his suspension and the Czech Champion moved into the lead. In the meantime O.C. Veiby set another fastest time and continued to move up the leader board.
At the midday service halt along the harbour of Alghero, Jan Kopecký was in a convincing lead, while teammate O.C. Veiby was moving closer to the competitors ahead of him. With three fastest times in a row on the morning stages, he moved up to fifth place in the WRC 2 interim category standings and had now the podium in sight. “I would have preferred, that Lefebvre would be still in the battle and I could fight with him. Now it is not easy for us, because when there is no pressure, you can easily lose concentration and make a mistake,” commented Kopecký.
After a short show stage on the rally cross track of Itteri, the afternoon saw the repetition of the morning stages. Veiby set another fastest time on stage 13, while Kopecký was quickest one stage later despite collecting two slow punctures, which left him with no spare tyres for the two remaining, in total 58 kilometres long special stages of the day. His task was now to drive as careful as possible to avoid another puncture which would have put him out of the competition. But he stayed cool, not risking too much and safely reaching the finish of the Saturday leg at the harbour of Alghero with a lead of more than three minutes. The Czech Champion admitted a big moment earlier on: “In the second stage after the service we almost rolled. There was a big rock in one of the ruts and the car went onto two wheels”.
Teammate O.C. Veiby set his sixth fastest time on Saturday which, after a great drive, brought him into third position and even in reach of the second place of the WRC 2 category.
ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek said: “Jan again drives faultlessly and fast, O.C. showed a great moral after his mishap and could achieve a podium result in the WRC 2 category here in Sardinia.” Sunday will bring the final decision with four stages, totalling around 42 kilometres, close to the coast north of the host town of Alghero.
Standings Rally Italia Sardegna after Day 3 (WRC 2)
1. Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 3:12:58.3 h
2. Ciamin/de la Haye (FRA/FRA), Hyundai i20, +3:09.4 min.
3. Veiby/Skjaermœn (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +3:37.6 min.
4. Loubet/Landais (FRA/FRA), Hyundai i20, +4:30.8 min.
5. Andolfi/Scattolin (ITA/ITA), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +6:29.1 min.
Number of the day: 6
Out of seven stages during the Saturday leg of Rally Italia Sardegna, O.C. Veiby won six, eventually moving from eighth to third position in the WRC 2 interim standings.
The calendar of the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
Great Britain 04/10/–07/10/2018