Neuville takes back-to-back win at Rally Sardinia to extend lead

The WRC Rally Sardinia, last Sunday, was won by Hyundai WRT’s Thierry Neuville, who beat five-time Champion Sebastien Ogier by the narrowest margin. Neuville trailed Ogier by 0.8sec ahead of the final day’s 6.96km test, but delivered a daredevil drive in his Hyundai i20 to overhaul the Frenchman and claim his third win of the season by 0.7sec.

It was the third smallest winning margin in the WRC’s 45-year history, matching Neuville’s dramatic success in Argentina last year when he performed a similar snatch and grab on Elfyn Evans.

With the win, the Hyundai WRT driver managed to extend his championship lead over Ogier to 27 points. Neuville had been on song over the weekend and started the short final leg 3.9sec adrift of Ogier. After winning three tests, both top contenders were cautious prior to the final test. In a straight fight to the finish, Neuville had a better pace than Ogier to win the rally. “I gave it everything, it was a really great fight and such a small difference at the end. We needed to make a decision at the start of the last stage and our decision was to go for the win. We believed strongly and pushed hard,” said Neuville.

A disappointed Ogier commented, “We lost one battle but definitely not the war. It’s not the time to panic. I tried everything I could today but I was always losing a few tenths here and there.”

Esapekka Lappi eased through the final leg’s 42.04km of action to claim third in a Toyota Yaris. With big time gaps in front and behind, the Finn took no risks to secure his first podium of the season. In fourth was the Hyundai i20 WRC of Hayden Paddon who shrugged off lingering back pain from an accident at the previous round in Portugal. After restarting with a 2.1-sec advantage over Mads Østberg’s Citroen C3, he distanced the Norwegian to finish 15.7sec clear. Craig Breen completed the top six after a difficult weekend in another C3 WRC.

The championship now heads for the mid-season break before resuming on the fast gravel roads of Rally Finland, which is based in Jyväskylä on 26 – 29 July.

2018 WRC Rally Sardinia classification

1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 3hr 29min 18.7sec
2. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 0.7sec
3. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Toyota Yaris + 1min 56.3sec
4. H Paddon / S Marshall NZL Hyundai i20 + 2min 55.2sec
5. M Østberg / T Eriksen NOR Citroën C3 + 3min 10.9sec
6. C Breen / S Martin IRE Citroën C3 + 4min 31.7sec

Drivers standings (after round 7 of 13)
1. T Neuville 149pts
2. S Ogier 122pts
3. O Tänak 79pts