Sebastien Ogier took his third win in five rallies to stamp his authority on the race for the 2021 World Rally Championship after a masterful drive on Rally Sardinia, his fourth win on the island. Sweeping the roads on day one the Frenchman kept himself in touching distance of the leading cars, but as trouble befell them was in the perfect position to inherit the lead which he would not give up.
Trouble in the water splash on the Wolf Power Stage meant he would not fight for the top bonus points, taking only two, but the 27 points gained helped him to extend his lead in the championship from main rival Elfyn Evans. It was a much calmer final day in Sardinia, with the Power Stage water splash proving to be the only real drama as most crews, especially those under Rally2, tried to preserve tyres for the final stage.
The Welshman set a storming time on the opening stage of the day to firmly close the door on Thierry Neuville catching him for second, but this was nearly all undone on the Power Stage as he entered the same water splash that caused Ogier trouble and could not get his car restarted straight way. Losing 18 seconds he held onto second but any hopes of any Power Stage bonus points were long gone.
Neuville was the driver that would take the full 5 bonus points on the power stage and finish the weekend with another podium as he benefitted from the day two retirements of his team mates. This meant that Neuville actually scored more points than Evans on the event to keep him on the coat tails of the leading championship pairing.
Fourth and the final WRC car not under Rally2 restart regulations was Takamoto Katsuta who once again matched his best WRC finish. Katsuta was well aware that he was not there on pace alone and wasn’t particularly happy, but should take the result as a positive as to score good results you need to finish events, which his rivals did not. A slow run through the Power Stage suggested an issue aboard his Toyota Yaris WRC, but no troubles were reported at the stage end.
Such was the attrition in the WRC fifth place was actually the start of the WRC2 leaders, with Jari Huttunen claiming the WRC2 win from Mads Ostberg in sixth. Ostberg had battled back after a day of issues on Saturday to be within touching distance and a storming drive on the first stage of the day meant Ostberg took the lead. However a puncture in SS18 lost Ostberg time and lead to a remarkable expletive ridden stage end interview as he voiced his displeasure at the Pirelli tyres.
Ostberg again fought back on SS19 to close the gap to just 2.1 seconds with one to go, but another brake issue meant that Huttunen was able to extend the gap and claim the WRC2 win. Next were a trio of WRC3 drivers as Yohan Rossel took victory to extend his championship lead in his Citroen C3 with seventh place overall. Eighth and ninth went to Pepe Lopez and Jan Solans with the final WRC2 podium being taken by Marco Bulacia who suffered a roll on SS18 but such were the time gaps was able to continue and secure tenth.
A host of WRC driver returned under Rally2 rules with the rallying world expecting another Ott Tanak Power Stage charge as he saved his tyres all morning, but he would only score four additional points after being pipped by his team mate Neuville. Rovenpera scored three bonus points for himself and the team with Dani Sordo securing the final bonus point for Hyundai.
M-Sport Ford ending a difficult weekend with at least both drivers making it through a day with no real issues, with Teemu Suninen and Gus Greensmith being sixth and seventh fastest on the Power Stage but way down the leader board overall. However due to the WRC attrition, would still score the team 18 manufacturer points overall.
Next up for the WRC is a return to an event last seen in 2002, the Safari Rally in Kenya. A huge unknown for the crews and an event more than capable of providing a unlikely result or a championship game changer.