PHOTO: Second-placed New Zealanders John Kennard (left) and driver Hayden Paddon taste podium glory for the first time in their WRC careers at Rally Italia Sardegna (WRC pic)
SEBASTIEN Ogier claimed maximum points from Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday after winning both his fourth WRC event of the season and the final live TV Power Stage.
After a fierce fight with Hayden Paddon, Ogier eventually enjoyed a comfortable 3min 05.3sec victory in his Volkswagen Polo R over the New Zealander, who produced the surprise of the rally by heading the world champion for almost two days.
After problems late on Saturday, Paddon’s consolation was a career-best second in a Hyundai i20. Belgium’s Thierry Neuville finished 4min 22.5sec off the lead in third, ensuring two podium places for the Korean manufacturer.
Having completed Round 6 at the weekend, the WRC has only three more events to run in Europe – Poland, Finland and Germany – before teams head Down Under for the annual Coates Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 10-13 September.
Adult tickets for Rally Australia, priced from $53 (including booking fee) a day, are now on sale from NRMAtix.
Ogier was the only frontrunner to avoid major problems as the rocky roads of Sardinia took a heavy toll. He leads the championship by 66 points from Citroën’s Mads Østberg, with seven of the 13 rounds remaining.
The Frenchman overcame the handicap of sweeping gravel from the roads for the opening two days and only demoted Paddon, in his first full WRC season, when the Kiwi spun and later hit a rock and damaged his gearbox.
“Hayden did a great job and deserves his podium,” Ogier said.
“I didn’t expect this kind of result here. It was very difficult to open the road but the times got better and better. Everything was perfect all weekend, from the car to the weather forecasts.”
Paddon became the first New Zealand driver to lead a WRC round outside his home country. But with victory gone after Saturday’s problems, he eased through the final day, hiding the fact he was nursing his car.
“We still had some damage from the impact yesterday so we were lucky to get here,” he said after the final stage. “I’m very relieved, it was a massive weekend but there’s more to come yet.”
Neuville climbed to third on Sunday morning after Østberg went off the road in the opening stage and damaged his DS3’s brakes. He limped through the final three tests, falling behind both Neuville and Elfyn Evans but holding off Jari-Matti Latvala.
After driveshaft problems on the opening day, Evans recovered to finish fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS, 1min 12.3sec behind Neuville and more than two minutes clear of Østberg.
Latvala threw everything at his attempt to overhaul Østberg, but fell 16.6sec short and settled for sixth in another Polo R. The leaderboard was completed by WRC2 trio Yurii Protasov, Paolo Andreucci and Jan Kopecky, and Khalid Al Qassimi.
Among those to finish down the order were Andreas Mikkelsen (suspension / fuel pressure), Kris Meeke (accident), Dani Sordo (wheel off / fuel pressure), Ott Tänak (gearbox) and Robert Kubica (gearbox).
The Australian WRC2 entrants Scott Pedder and Dale Moscatt retired from the event on Saturday with engine failure in their Ford Fiesta R5.
Round seven of the series is the all-gravel LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland on 2-5 July.
RESULTS, Rally Italia Sardegna (Rd 6 of 13):
- S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 4:25:54.3
- H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +3:05.4
- T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +4:22.5
- E. Evans / D. Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:34.8
- M. Østberg / J. Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +7:50.1
- J.M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +8:06.7
- Y. Protasov / P.Cherepin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +14:57.7
- P. Andreucci / A. Andreussi (Peugeot 208 T16) +15:03.3
- J. Kopecky / P. Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +17:41.7
- 10. K. Al Qassimi / C. Patterson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +19:12.0
FIA Drivers’ standings (after Rd 6)
- S. Ogier 133 points
- M. Østberg 67
- A. Mikkelsen 64
- J-M. Latvala 56
- E. Evans 53
- T. Neuville 50
- K. Meeke 47
- D. Sordo 38
- H. Paddon 32
- 10. M. Prokop 27
FIA Manufacturers’ standings (after Rd 6)
- Volkswagen Motorsport 179 points
- Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 115
- Hyundai Motorsport 113
- M-Sport World Rally Team 99
- Jipocar Czech National Team 34
- Hyundai Motorsport N 31
- Volkswagen Motorsport II 31
- FWRT SRL 3
LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland, 2-5 July