Toyota’s Sebastian Ogier wins WRC Rally Italia Sardegna from teammate Elfyn Evans and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, which saw only four main draw finishers.
Ott Tanak delivered a near-perfect performance to lead Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo after Friday’s punishing opening leg at Rally Italia Sardegna. Tanak won five of the eight sun-kissed and rocky speed tests in his i20 World Rally Car to build a handy 19.0sec advantage over his Spanish colleague in this fifth round of the FIA WRC.
After dominating the previous round in Portugal only to retire from the lead, the Estonian was fastest out of the blocks on the Mediterranean holiday island. He won all four morning speed tests to lead by 16.9sec. A fifth straight win was followed by a brace of second fastest times. His only blot on the day was a delaminated front left tyre in the closing test, which cost a handful of seconds.
Sordo, chasing a third consecutive Sardinia success, was hampered by minor problems this morning but hit top form later. He traded places with championship leader Sebastien Ogier before reeling off three fastest times to end the day 16.8sec clear of the Frenchman’s Toyota Yaris. Ogier was delighted with his drive. Expecting a day of damage limitation after starting first on sandy roads where grip was at its lowest, he briefly held second but was unable to match the Hyundais and ended 36.2sec off the lead.
Elfyn Evans ended a frustrating day in fourth in his Yaris. The Welshman was out of sorts this morning and languished in sixth, but better pace this afternoon enabled the winner of the previous round in Portugal to recover. He ended more than a minute adrift of Tanak. Thierry Neuville was another to struggle this morning. Set-up changes had a positive effect and the Belgian ended on a high, sharing fastest time in the final stage with team-mate Sordo. Two punctures didn’t help his efforts, but he was only 1.2sec behind Evans.
Sixth went the way of Takamoto Katsuta. The Japanese driver stalled his Yaris’ engine three times but held a comfortable advantage over WRC2 leader Mads Ostberg. Jari Huttunen was eighth ahead of WRC3 leader Yohan Rossel and Marco Bulacia. Kalle Rovanpera was initially Tänak’s closest challenger but the Finn retired his Yaris with broken front right suspension in this morning’s final stage.
It was a disappointing day for M-Sport Ford. Teemu Suninen retired in the opening stage after tipping his Fiesta onto its side, while Gus Greensmith retired from seventh in the last stage with transmission troubles. Brake problems cost Pierre-Louis Loubet more than three minutes and he was 11th in an i20.
Sebastien Ogier is on course for a remarkable victory at Rally Italia Sardegna after Saturday’s gruelling second leg decimated his challengers to leave Toyota Gazoo Racing first and second. The FIA WRC leader will start Sunday’s final leg with a 38.9sec advantage over Yaris World Rally Car team-mate Elfyn Evans after a disastrous day for Hyundai Motorsport’s Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo.
Tanak was 40sec clear when he thumped a rock and shattered his i20 World Rally Car’s rear left suspension this morning. It was the second successive rally from which Tanak has retired whilst leading after suffering similar heartbreak in Portugal last month. His demise left Ogier ahead after he had earlier relegated Sordo from second. Sordo’s day came to a violent end in the penultimate speed test when he ran wide, clipped a culvert and rolled. The impact ripped the right rear wheel off and he, too, was out.
Ogier was never expected to lead here. He was first in the start order in Friday’s opening leg, sweeping dusty gravel from the surface to leave more grip for those behind. He did a superb job to limit the time loss and take advantage of Tanak’s exit. The Frenchman managed his tyre choice perfectly and won five of the day’s eight gruelling stages. As the sandy surface was wiped away, a hard and abrasive rocky base was exposed beneath which proved tough on cars and tyres.
Evans struggled to find consistent pace in the first leg but the Welshman was rejuvenated today. Set-up changes provided an improved feeling with his Yaris and he won two stages, getting the better of his fight with Thierry Neuville to head the Belgian by 22.7sec. Neuville made constant changes to his i20 but none delivered the pace he wanted. There was no pressure from behind with Takamoto Katsuta three minutes adrift in fourth in another Yaris.
The Japanese driver was lucky to survive after hitting a rock which almost threw his car off the road. He dropped more time in the penultimate stage when he stopped to remove the blanking used to reduce air flow through the radiator which had been left in place. The rally has been so demanding that the rest of the leaderboard comprised support category cars.
WRC2 leader Jari Huttunen was fifth but had just 7.4sec in hand over Mads Ostberg. WRC3 leader Yohan Rossel was seventh, with Pepe López, Jan Solans and Marco Bulacia completing the top 10. Gus Greensmith retired his Fiesta for a second day with mechanical issues, while Pierre-Louis Loubet stopped after reporting a burning smell in his i20.
Sebastien Ogier stretched his FIA WRC lead with a convincing but surprise victory at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday afternoon. The reigning champion headed a Toyota Yaris 1-2 finish on the Mediterranean island’s punishing rock-strewn gravel roads to claim his third win of the season. He finished 46.0sec clear of Elfyn Evans, extending his lead to 11 points after five of the 12 events.
It was reckoned Ogier could not win this fifth round. As championship leader, he started first in the order on Friday’s opening leg, ploughing a line through loose gravel which became progressively cleaner and offered more grip with the passage of each car. The Frenchman was expected to haemorrhage time but ended the day just over half a minute adrift of a dominant Ott Tanak and Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo.
In improved conditions on Saturday, Ogier punched in a series of fastest times. When Tanak ripped a rear wheel from his i20 World Rally Car after hitting a rock and Sordo rolled, Ogier was clear to ease through Sunday’s finale and claim a 52nd WRC career win. Evans was initially out of sorts and trailed by more than a minute after the first leg. Set-up changes improved the Welshman’s feeling with his car and a handful of stage wins propelled him up the order to increase Toyota’s manufacturers’ series lead over Hyundai to 49 points.
There was a late scare when his car spluttered to a halt after the same watersplash that troubled Ogier. He remained motionless for almost 20sec before the engine restarted. Third place for Thierry Neuville, a further 19.2sec behind, was scant consolation for Hyundai. The Belgian spent all weekend fine-tuning his i20’s set-up but none of the changes delivered the pace to match the pair ahead.
Such was the level of attrition that fourth-placed Takamoto Katsuta was the only other top-level driver to avoid retirement. The Japanese pilot matched his career-best finish from the previous round in Portugal, despite a bee buzzing inside his Yaris during one Sunday test.
Fifth went to WRC2 winner Jari Huttunen. The Finn relegated Mads Ostberg when the Norwegian punctured on Sunday’s second stage and held off a determined charge through the final two tests to end 7.5sec ahead. WRC3 winner Yohan Rossel finished seventh with Pepe López and Jan Solans next up. Marco Bulacia completed the leaderboard despite a final day roll.
Here’s the full WRC Rally Italia Sardegna results: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/
Here’s how WRC Rally de Portugal panned out
[Note: Due to time shortage and multiple championships during the weekend, we are forced to share the report from WRC press release of each day’s running]