Italy debrief: part 1

In the opening part of our Rally Italia Sardegna review, we examine the key moment of the weekend and spotlight our top driver.

Turning Point
Monte Lerno is Sardinia’s signature special stage. Huge crowds watched the high-fliers at the iconic Micky’s Jump early in the test, but there’s much more to it than that. The roads become increasingly narrow, bumpy and rough and are a tough challenge.

Saturday’s first pass was where Sébastien Ogier lost this event. He started the 28.89km stage with a solid, if not comfortable, 19.5sec advantage over Thierry Neuville. He ended it just 4.9sec to the good after a lacklustre sixth fastest time.

Ogier handed Neuville a lifeline which the Belgian grabbed to enhance his title claims. “Wrong rhythm probably,” was the Frenchman’s explanation at the time and come Sunday’s Alghero finish, he knew this was the defining point.

Driver of the Rally
No arguments here – step forward Mr Neuville. Thierry is never short of confidence and having propelled himself back into contention in Monte Lerno, he went for Ogier’s jugular.

Not for him the option of playing safe and settling for solid points courtesy of second place. He wanted a win to send Ogier into the mid-season break with something to think about.

He was sublime on the final day, taking four wins from four stages. He matched that skill level with the utmost bravery through the final Sassari - Argentiera Power stage to seal the deal. It was the stuff champions are made of….

Sardinia lacked nothing in excitement

You’ll Never Believe It
In early June, you can guarantee sunshine in Sardinia, with temperatures edging towards 30°C. Not this year. Torrential rain made Friday’s stages so muddy and wet they more resembled Wales Rally GB.

Happily normal service was resumed, and by Sunday we were enjoying Italy’s wonderful gelato in 31°C heat.

Quote of the Rally 
Conditions were so tough that Friday’s second pass through the technically tricky Tula test brought big time margins. The roads worsened with the passage of every car as standing water and mud hampered the later starters.

Mads Østberg summed it up perfectly. “Sometimes it feels like you are walking through the stage – and it’s a long walk!”

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