Sebastien Ogier took a largely symbolic World Rally Championship stage win on Rally Italy’s opening superspecial, 0.1 seconds ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
Thursday evening’s Ittiri Arena Show was a short 1.2-mile test, with drivers already focused on the start of the rally proper on Friday morning.
Ogier still laid down an early marker after his zero points haul from Portugal, where he retired due to broken steering sending him off the road and into trees.
Mikkelsen behind was pushing very hard, picking up minor cosmetic damage to his Hyundai i20’s left rear wheel arch and leaving body vinyl wrap hanging loose.
Championship leader Thierry Neuville was third fastest behind his Hyundai team-mate Mikkelsen, 0.7s from championship rival Ogier. It wasn’t for a lack of trying, Neuville briefly popping up onto two wheels in a slow left hairpin.
Elfyn Evans went fourth fastest, 0.9s off his team-mate Ogier’s pace, despite impaired visibility when his windscreen washers failed in the damp, muddy conditions on stage.
Hyundai managed three cars in top five positions, as Hayden Paddon went fifth quickest to begin what is only his second consecutive WRC start all season.
Esapekka Lappi was Toyota’s leading contender in sixth, 1.7s off Ogier’s benchmark. M-Sport’s third driver Teemu Suninen split a Toyota pair, edging out Jari-Matti Latvala for seventh.
Fastest in the morning’s shakedown, eighth-placed Latvala found a “couple of corners” more difficult than anticipated in his run through the arena stage’s muddy conditions,
Part-time Citroen factory driver Mads Ostberg was ninth, ahead of the third Toyota of Ott Tanak in 10th.
De facto Citroen team leader Craig Breen estimated he “dropped five to eight seconds” after stalling at the stage startline, his 2m09.1s time slower than a pair of junior class drivers.
WRC veteran Jan Kopecky set the pace in the championship’s WRC2 support category, 0.7s faster than his Skoda Motorsport team-mate Ole Christian Veiby.
Citroen factory driver Stephane Lefebvre, who was driving its WRC-specification C3 last year, was third quickest in WRC2 in the firm’s new R5 car, 0.9s behind Kopecky.
Follow Rally Italy as it happens from 7.30am UK time Friday morning
Leading positions after SS1
|1||Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||2m02.7s|
|2||Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||0.1s|
|3||Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||0.7s|
|4||Elfyn Evans, D.Barritt||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||0.9s|
|5||Hayden Paddon, S.Marshall||Hyundai Motorsport||Hyundai||1.6s|
|6||Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||1.7s|
|7||Teemu Suninen, M.Markkula||M-Sport Ford WRT||Ford||1.8s|
|8||Mads Ostberg, T.Eriksen||Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT||Citroen||1.9s|
|8||Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||1.9s|
|10||Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja||Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT||Toyota||2.5s|