Dani Sordo held off FIA World Rally Championship title-chasing pair Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier to seal back-to-back Rally Italia Sardegna wins on Sunday afternoon.
The Spaniard, driving only his second WRC rally this year, came under intense pressure as the duelling duo ate into his half-minute lead in the final four gravel speed tests. He hung on to win this sixth round by 5.1 sec in a Hyundai i20.
It marked a third WRC victory for 37-year-old Sordo, who was never headed after taking the lead on Friday morning. It was also his second consecutive triumph on the Mediterranean island after a dramatic last-gasp success in 2019.
“This place is really special, and we have seen a strong performance across the whole team. I’m not particularly pleased with my pace today. We had a big lead coming into Sunday morning, but I wasn’t able to set the same times as Thierry and Ogier, so things were a bit too close by the end,” he said.
Behind, team-mate Neuville and Ogier fought tooth-and-nail. After trading places all rally, Ogier defended second throughout Sunday, until a blistering drive from his Belgian rival enabled him to snatch the position by 1.0sec in a tense final stage shootout.
“I was on the limit and pushed very hard,” admitted six-time champion Ogier, who won six of the rally’s 16 rocky tests over three days in northern Sardinia. “It was intense the whole weekend. We gave everything in the last stage and there is not much more I could have done.”
Hyundai’s 1-2 promoted the Korean squad into the lead of the manufacturers’ series with a seven-point advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing. Just 6.1 sec covered the podium places, the smallest margin in championship history.
Elfyn Evans holds a 14-point lead over Toyota team-mate Ogier in the drivers’ standings with two rounds remaining. The Welshman guided his Yaris to fourth, just over a minute behind Sordo.
Teemu Suninen led initially but after slipping back with mechanical problems on his Ford Fiesta, the Finn finished fifth, 31.6 sec behind Evans.
It was a disappointing weekend for world champion Ott Tänak. Suspension problems on his i20 cost time on the opening morning. He recovered to sixth and gained maximum bonus points in the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage, but trails Evans by 28 points in the title fight.
The penultimate round takes competitors to Belgium for the first time. The asphalt Renties Rally Ypres Belgium takes place on 19 – 22 November.
1. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 2 hr 41 min 37.5 sec
2. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 +5.1 sec
3. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Toyota Yaris +6.1 sec
4. E Evans / S Martin GBR Toyota Yaris +1 min 02.3 sec
5. T Suninen / J Lehtinen FIN Ford Fiesta +1 min 33.9 sec
6. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +2 min 27.5 sec
FIA World Rally Championship (after round 6 of 8)
1. E Evans 111 pts
2. S Ogier 97 pts
3. T Neuville 87 pts
Credits : Photos and content courtesy of Red Bull Media