Ogier wins opening super special in Sardinia

Alghero (Italy) (AFP) –


World champion Sebastien Ogier set the pace for Citroen by winning Thursday's opening super special in the Rally of Italy on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.

The French driver finished 0.1sec ahead of Finnish teammate Esapekka Lappi with Estonia's Ott Tanak third for Toyota 0.3sec off the pace.

"It's better than nothing, every tenth of a second counts," said Ogier after the short special on an old motocross track at Olmedo in the north-west of the island.

"Tomorrow will be a different story starting first on the road."

Ogier, 35, will open the road on Friday, in a race he won three consecutive times from 2013-2015 while driving for Volkswagen.

The 31-year-old Tanak has won the last two races in Chile and Portugal and is just two points behind six-time world champion Ogier in the overall standings.

Britain's Kris Meeke posted the fourth fastest time at 0.4sec as the eighth round of the 14-leg world champion series got underway.

Last year's Sardinia winner Belgian Thierry Neuville of Hyundai was sixth best at 1.8sec.

The 19 special stages -- of which 310.52km are timed -- are being raced in the north around the Alghero national park.

On the menu, narrow dirt roads lined with stones and shrubs that severely punish mistakes.

Ruts that get deeper with each passage and the searing temperatures will further complicate the task for competitors.

The drivers will get down to business on Friday with two passages on four special stages.

Saturday will be particularly gruelling with three specials, two of which are almost 30km long, to be covered twice.

At mid-season, it's a tight battle between the top three with Ogier leading with 142 points, two ahead of Tanak with Neuville third ten points adrift of the leader.