World Rally Championship: Kris Meeke sixth after nine stages in Sardinia

Kris Meeke and co-driver Sebastian Marshall were in third place early in Friday's action
Kris Meeke crashed out on the final stage in Portugal earlier this month while in third place

Northern Ireland's Kris Meeke is in sixth spot - 29.5 seconds behind leader Dani Sordo - after Friday's action in Rally Italia in Sardinia.

Meeke, who crashed out of the final stage in the previous round in Portugal while battling for second spot, lay third after Friday's opening stage.

However, the Toyota driver lost ground on stage three to drop 16 seconds to then leader, Teemu Suninen.

Meeke, 39, moved up two places on stage six and he remained in sixth place.

"These stages today were mostly new for me, and I struggled a bit this morning just to find my way," said Meeke.

"This afternoon was stronger and we had a decent rhythm. The car's been near perfect and I'm generally quite happy.

"Tomorrow's stages are more traditional from this rally and I have knowledge of them from the past, so hopefully the feeling should be better."

Meeke's team-mate Finn Jari-Matti Latvala took the lead ahead of compatriot Suninen on stage four but then rolled his Toyota on stage six to drop out of contention as he slipped to 28th place.

Another notable casualty was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who dropped from ninth to 45th spot after a crash on stage five.

Hyundai driver, Spaniard Sordo goes into Saturday's action 10.8 seconds ahead of Suninen with Meeke's other Toyota team-mate Ott Tanak a further 0.4 seconds in arrears.

Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen is an additional nine seconds back in fourth - 0.10 seconds ahead of Welshman Elfyn Evans.

Ogier, aiming for seventh straight world title, went into the Sardinia event with 142 points - which left him two ahead of Tanak.

Belgium's Thierry Neuville, 10 points off the pace, looks the only other realistic contender for this year's world title with Evans in fourth place - 77 points off the leader - and Meeke a further nine points back in fifth spot.

Neuville lies seventh after Friday's action - 57.7 seconds off the pace.