WRC Rally Sardinia (Rd 7; 396.82 km)
Sebastien Ogier claimed a fourth WRC win of the season to extend his points lead to 64 over Volkswagen compatriot Jari-Matti Latvala. M-Sport Ford’s Thierry Neuville and Latvala rounded out the podium places.
Ogier led from the off, although he had a little help when fastest qualifier Latvala received a puncture on the first stage, promoting Mikko Hirvonen (Citroen) to 2nd, just ahead of Mads Ostberg (M-Sport). Ogier’s lead grew to 46.6s by the end of the opening leg; however the Frenchman’s job was made easier when Hirvonen crashed out on stage 10, two stages after Ostberg had also rolled out of contention. With Neuville now 2nd, Ogier continued to pull away, eventually taking the rally by 76.8s – the Volkswagen man also took the Power Stage to claim full weekend points.
Neuville’s runner-up place is a career best finish for the multi-lingual Belgian and brings him to 3rd in the standings behind the Volkswagen duo, jumping Hirvonen in the process. It was as slow start for the M-Sport runner who fell 40.3s adrift during the opening morning; however Neuville took two stages on Friday evening to climb to 3rd, before assuming 2nd following Hirvonen’s mishap. An off on stage 12 for Neuville gave Latvala a chance to take the runner-up place; however the Belgian maintained a solid pace to hold onto 2nd spot. Latvala’s early puncture lost him two minutes and dropped him 12th; however the Finn fought hard to maintain the gap, allowing him to rise to the final podium place.
Dani Sordo took a quiet 4th, despite running quickly early on, while Martin Prokop finished 5th for the independent Czech-Ford team. Elfyn Evans grabbed a fantastic 6th on his WRC debut, pipping Lotos driver Michael Kosciuszko by 0.9s by rally end. Ostberg recovered to take 8th after a Rally 2 restart, with Khalid Al Qassimi a further four minutes adrift in 10th spot.
Robert Kubica won the WRC-2 class by over four minutes, taking 9th in the process ahead of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (11th). Christian Riedemann won the WRC-3 class some five minutes up on Keith Cronin.