Neuville off to flying start in Rally of Italy


Alghero (Italy) (AFP)

Belgian driver Thierry Neuville set the early pace at the Rally of Italy in Sardinia by winning Thursday's opening super special stage, with four-time world champion and title rival Sebastien Ogier trailing in sixth.

The 28-year-old Hyundai driver -- second in the overall standings after wins in France and Argentina -- covered the 2km route in 2min 01.8sec to lead Estonian Ott Tänak (M-Sport/Ford) by 0.2sec with Spanish Hyundai teammate Dani Sordo third at 0.4sec.

Championship leader Ogier trails by 0.9 in his Ford Focus with returning Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen, without a team in 2017 but signed by Citroën for this race, eighth at 1.1sec.

The first full day of racing will take place on Friday, a loop of four stages that are run twice for a total of 125.46 competitive kilometres. In total 19 stages will be raced over the weekend on the Mediterranean island.