Normal service resumed on Rally Italia, Sebastien Ogier claiming the win after two events off the top spot.
It wasn’t a straightforward win, though. Faced with running first on the road on Day 1, he lost time clearing a path in his Volkswagen through the dusty, rocky Sardinian roads for everyone else to follow.
Young New Zealander Hayden Paddon capitalised on his position well down the running order to set some blistering stage times and assume the lead. It was fluke either, the inexperienced Hyundai driver holding off a determined Jari-Matti Latvala.
Paddon kept his head as many more experienced drivers fell by the wayside, most with suspension damage. Latvala made an error as well, hitting a bank in his VW and allowing Ogier into second, the Frenchman finding some speed as the conditions improved.
By the afternoon of Day 2, Ogier took over the lead from Paddon, who held onto to second despite suffering a broken gearbox mount that almost ended his rally.
Ogier spent the rest of the rally extending his advantage, taking the win by three minutes.
Citroen’s Mads Ostberg had been poised to take third before he damaged his car late on and dropped to fifth. That allowed Paddon’s senior teammate Thierry Neuville through to complete a double podium for Hyundai.
M-Sport Ford looked set for a podium finish early on, only to be scuppered when Ott Tanak was forced out with transmission failure. It was left to Elfyn Evans to uphold the team’s honour, taking fourth despite spending much of Day 1 with only front-wheel-drive.
Latvala recovered to sixth ahead of WRC2 winner Yuriy Protasov, who had a close battle through the last day-and-a-half with local driver Paolo Andreucci. Jan Kopecky and Khalid Al-Qassimi closed out the top ten.
Ogier’s fourth victory of the year means he extends his advantage at the top of the championship standings to 66 points over second-placed Mads Ostberg.
The next event is Rally Poland on 2-5 July.
Rally Italia top ten finishers after 23 stages
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 4:25:54.3
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — +3:05.4
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +4:22.5
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +5:34.8
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +7:50.1
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport — VW Polo R WRC — +8:06.7
- Yuriy Protasov — Y. Protasov/Ford Fiesta R5 — +14:57.7
- Paolo Andreucci — FPF Sport/Peugeot 208 T16 — +15:03.3
- Jan Kopecky — Skoda Motorsport/Skoda Fabia R5 — +17:41.7
- Khalid Al-Qassimi — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi/DS 3 WRC — +19:12.0
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By Only Motors