Neuville beats Ogier by seven-tenths of a second in Sardinia!
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Neuville beats Ogier by seven-tenths of a second in Sardinia!


The provisional world championship pace-setter Thierry Neuville (Hyundai/Michelin) came out on top of his hypnotising duel with five-time champ Sébastien Ogier (Ford/Michelin) to win the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna by seven-tenths of a second. Esapekka Lappi was third for Toyota/Michelin.

The championship’s provisional top two drivers produced a nail-biting finale in Sardinia where they were split by a mere 0.8s – in Ogier’s favour – at the start of the final stage of the season’s seventh round. The Belgian pulled out all the stops on the Power Stage to clinch the laurels by 0.7s, the third-smallest winning margin in WRC history!

The opening day of the Rally Italia Sardegna was marked by rain and the uncustomary muddy, slippery conditions helped Ogier to ease ahead on SS6 with his Ford Fiesta RS WRC running on soft-compound LTX Force S5 tyres.

Indeed, the soft option of Michelin’s WRC tyre proved the most frequent choice amongst the WRC runners for Friday’s visit to some of the season’s roughest stages, and then again on Saturday. Day 2’s menu included the long and rocky Monte di Alia and Monte Lerno tests which saw the Michelin S5 showcase its exceptional durability and strength.

The retirement of Ott Tanak (Toyota/Michelin) after the jump on SS9 left Ogier and Neuville clear in front and the two drivers subsequently engaged in an enthralling scrap. Sunday’s action saw the Belgian gradually home in on the Frenchman to start the Power Stage (6.96km) a mere 0.8s adrift.

Before the final stage, however, there was a moment of concern for Ogier when his co-driver Julien Ingrassia left the crew’s timecard at the Stop Control of the previous test. It was reminiscent of the 2001 Swedish Rally when Carlos Sainz’s co-driver Luis Moya did the same thing. Back then, it was Nicky Grist, Colin McRae’s right-hand man, who retrieved and delivered the card. This time around, it was Tanak’s navigator Martin Jarveoja who collected the vital card on Ingrassia’s behalf.

With this mini-drama solved, Neuville gave it his very best shot on the last stage to improve on last year’s best effort on the same test by 17 seconds over a distance of 6.96km. It was enough to earn him the victory by 0.7s, the same winning margin that separated him from second-placed Elfyn Evans in Argentina in 2017!

Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala produced an interesting battle for third place, the balance tipping in the former’s favour after his elder’s demise with an alternator issue on Saturday evening’s last road section.

Hayden Paddon (Hyundai/Michelin) and Mads Ostberg (Citroën/Michelin) rounded out the top five, while the early leader Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai/Michelin) was delayed by a gearbox problem.

Skoda Motorsport, Michelin and Jan Kopecky were the victors again in WRC2 which is the scene of a fight between four tyre brands.

Neuville and Ogier tally three wins each so far this season but the Belgian tops the provisional Drivers’ standings with a cushion of 27 points ahead of the next clash, the celebrated Rally Finland on July 26-29.