Thierry Neuville grabbed his first rally win of the season in Italy as the Belgian managed his gap to teammate Lappi throughout the last day. In a day with little movement and nursing of cars for the power stage, Rovanpera finished third nearly two minutes behind.
The final day of the rally consists of two runs of Arzachena – Braniatogghiu and Sardegna with the latter holding the Wolf Power Stage on the last run-through.
Sunday didn’t see much movement after the prior days took their toll on the WRC field. Thierry Neuville was fully in control as there would be no challenge from the Lappi, the Finn knowing he is ultimately there to support his Hyundai teammate. The only notable incident came in the form of Dani Sordo who had to retire the car after picking up an engine issue on SS17.
Neuville finished SS19 with no issues to take his first victory of the season by 33s to his teammate Lappi. “Obviously it was a challenging weekend. We came here with the belief that we could fight for victory but the first day was challenging and we lost a bit of time.,” said Neuville. “Yesterday we found ourselves in the lead and we had to manage it until the end. It’s the first victory for the team this year, it’s a 1-2, and the first time for our team principal as well. Craig is in our memories as well – we wanted the win in Croatia but we got it now.”
Lappi secured the 1-2 for Hyundai but was frustrated to not get the win in the end.
“You need to accept these things. For sure it’s frustrating [to not win] but that’s how it is,” commented Lappi at the stage finish. “Let’s hope that Thierry will finish and we get a 1-2 for the team. That would be very encouraging after Portugal.”
Despite a tough rally for the Toyota contingent, Rovanpera finished in third place but was 1min 55.3s behind Neuville.
“It was quite controlled to be honest, it didn’t feel fast. I was enjoying the rain and mud when I had proper tyres on the car,” said Rovanpera. “Quite good points – I was not expecting much from this weekend. We were not the fastest from starting first on the road but I think we did a clever run.”
Ott Tanak took the stage wins on the first two tests of the day and Takamoto Katsuta took the SS18 win. The field however was saving their soft tyres for the Wolf Power Stage as there were realistically no other positions on offer.
It was Kalle Rovanpera who took the top spot on the Wolf Power stage beating Tanak by 4.7s, it was then a Toyota 3-4-5 led by Katsuta followed by Evans and Ogier.
Evans returned to the points after his big crash in Portugal with a reserved drive to fourth – focusing simply on survival after his various water-induced engine problems on Saturday.
It was drama in WRC2, Adrien Fourmaux crashed out of the lead of the rally on the final stage, the Ford driver was over 30s ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen heading into the power stage but Fourmaux ended up getting stuck in a ditch, allowing the Skoda man to take the victory.