Thierry Neuville claimed his second WRC victory at Rally Italia Sardegna after a difficult end to 2015 and an equally troubled start to the 2016 season. It all came good for the Belgian on the Mediterranean island as he won the four-day rough road event by 24.8sec in his Hyundai Motorsports i20.
Neuville became the fifth different winner in the last five FIA World Rally Championship rounds, adding to his maiden victory in Germany in 2014. Neuville won nine of the 19 speed tests, moving to the front of the group on day 2 and fought off a determined challenge from Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn closed to within three seconds on day 3 before Neuville pulled clear and eased through the final legs.
“My second time and there is much less pressure leading the rally,” Neuville said. “We had a great weekend and great things come to those who go and earn it. The feeling was good in the car, hopefully it’ll be like this for the rest of the season. It wasn’t easy but we keep working and it’s good for the confidence.”
Despite an ill-handling Volkswagen Polo R, Latvala led three times on Friday as he exchanged blows with Neuville and Sébastien Ogier. A new gearbox rectified the handling issues but Latvala conceded defeat on the final morning when the gap rose towards 20sec. Ogier extended his championship lead by finishing third. As road opener on most of the stages, Ogier lost time sweeping the dry gravel.
Dani Sordo claimed his fourth consecutive fourth place in an i20 to climb to second in the points standings. Ott Tänak and Eric Camilli, who claimed his maiden stage victory today, completed the top six in Ford Fiesta RS cars. Mads Østberg failed to restart the rally after his team diagnosed a damaged engine. Other retirements earlier in the rally included Hayden Paddon and Lorenzo Bertelli who both crashed out early.
The season reaches its midpoint on the fast gravel roads of the WRC 73rd PZM Rally Poland starting on the 30th of June and ending on the 3rd of July.
FIA WRC Rally Italia Sardegna Final Results:
01. T. Neuville Hyundai Motorsport
02. J. Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport
03. S. Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport
04. D. Sordo Hyundai Motorsport
05. O. Tanak DMack World Rally Team
06. E. Camilli M-Sport World Rally Team
07. H. Solberg Solberg Henning
08. T. Suninen Team Oreca
09. J. Kopecky Skoda Motorsport
10. K. Kruuda Drive DMack Trophy Team
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