Ogier holds Neuville at bay in tight Italy battle
WRC Rally Italy

Ogier holds Neuville at bay in tight Italy battle

Sebastien Ogier maintained a slim lead on Rally Italy ahead of World Rally Championship rival Thierry Neuville at the end of Saturday, taking a 3.9-second advantage into the deciding day.

Reigning champion Ogier's margin over Neuville had been cut down significantly before midday service, and he lost a further 2.0s with a startline stall on Saturday's first afternoon test.

Neuville then sustained a slow front right puncture, costing him double what he had gained from Ogier's earlier stall. He responded soon after, winning Saturday's remaining two stages to claw back 2.9s.

Toyota team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Esapekka Lappi remain engaged in a similarly close scrap for third position, now separated by 5.3s.

Latvala exercised caution throughout Saturday afternoon, making sure to avoid loose stones and rocks that could cause punctures.

Conversely, Lappi was attacking flat out, closing their gap mid-loop. Latvala responded, claiming 3.7s gap through Monte Lerno, Saturday's finalstage, but then faced a worrying end to his day.

Latvala arrived at Monte Lerno's finish line time control at competitive speed, revving his engine while stationary and disappearing just as quickly while dismissing reporters.

Hayden Paddon remains fifth overall, 2.1s ahead of Mads Ostberg. Paddon had gambled on taking one tyre fewer than Ostberg to save weight, as well as bringing soft tyres, though both decisions had a negligible effect in their duel.

Craig Breen is seventh, over one minute adrift of Citroen team-mate Ostberg.

WRC2 support class leader Jan Kopecky also holds eighth place overall, over three minutes clear of nearest class rival Nicolas Ciamin.

Ott Tanak finished Saturday in ninth place despite a late puncture forcing him to stop and change his front right tyre, with Friday retirement Andreas Mikkelsen also stopping early on the same stage.

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