With his ninth world title in the bag, Sebastien Loeb could have been forgiven for taking things easy in Sardinia.
Instead he was embroiled in a close fight for victory with his team-mate Mikko Hirvonen that came to an end when he crashed out on Friday’s opening stage, the result of an incorrectly prepared pace note. Hirvonen cruised to the finish and claimed his first victory for the Citroen squad.
With Ford’s factory team drivers Petter Solberg and Jari-Matti Latvala both failing to go the distance after dropping out on drama-filled Friday, Evgeny Novikov and Ott Tanak belied their lack of experience to finish second and third respectively in their privateer Fiesta RS WRCs. Novikov equalled his previous best WRC finish of second with Tanak clinching his maiden podium in third after both youngsters excelled throughout the four-day event.
Behind Tanak, Mads Ostberg finished fourth in a similar Ford Fiesta. Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sebastien Ogier fended off Chris Atkinson in the battle for fifth place, a fine effort by the Frenchman in a Super 2000-specification Skoda Fabia.
Sardinia tyre facts:
Michelin will supply its Latitude Cross gravel tyre to all of the World Rally Car crews. The WRC’s second tyre supplier, DMACK will supply WRC-2 runners with its DMG+2 tyre.
Both Michelin’s Latitude Cross and DMACK’s DMG+2 tyres are available in just one construction and tread pattern, but are offered in two compounds (hard and soft) to suit the varied conditions on the gravel rallies in the season.
In Italy, each WRC crew will have 24 hard-compound tyres available, plus an alternative of 16 soft-compound tyres. Each competitor is allowed to use a maximum of 35 tyres across both compounds for the entire event.