Belgium’s Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC) edged out champion, Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC), on the final stage to win round seven of the World Rally Championship, Rally Italia Sardegna, by just seven-tenths of a second.
Finland’s Esapekka Lappi (Toyota Yaris WRC) took his first WRC podium. He was third. Waterford’s Craig Breen (Citroen C3 WRC) was sixth.
Neuville began the final day 3.9 seconds behind Ogier, but with three fastest stage times, whittled the margin down by 0.8 of a second. The final, 6.96km stage would decide the outcome.
Both were on maximum attack and Neuville won and also claimed five bonus points from the Power Stage.
At the finish of the penultimate stage, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia departed the stage finish without their time card.
It was later delivered to the M-Sport duo by Toyota’s Ott Tanak. Although the stewards removed the 22 points Ogier and Ingrassia gained from the rally and the 18 earned by their M-Sport Ford team, the penalty was suspended and will only be applied if the pair repeat the offence before the end of the season. They were also fined €10,000.
Breen suffered with his road position. Asked if sixth (a place behind teammate, Mads Ostberg) was the best he could have gotten, he responded, “Definitely not, I want to be a winner, I want to be in front. I know we all have the potential and all the right things are lined up. Just have patience, please.”
Martin Walsh – Irish Examiner