Sebastien Ogier and Elfyn Evans’ double podium came under threat when their Yaris World Rally Cars ingested water with the end of one of the FIA World Rally Championship’s most attritional fixtures in years in sight.
Ogier was intent on adding maximum bonus points from the closing stage to the 25 in his clutch for a third victory of the season when he spluttered out of the water crossing 3.5km into the 7.79km Aglientu – Santa Teresa test.
“The last push was in the Power Stage and the only issue we had in the weekend came when we tried to cross the watersplash. Actually, I was quite scared in the moment,” the Frenchman explained.
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“We had a bad misfire and lost five or six seconds. I need to check, but maybe that cost us the Power Stage win. But 27 points feels really good from here.”
Ogier had to make do with fourth fastest, but more importantly the win was safe and he extended his championship lead over Welshman Evans to 11 points after five of the 12 rounds.
The winning margin climbed to 46.0sec as just minutes earlier Evans suffered a similar problem which left his Yaris stationary.
“When the engine had no response, it took on a lot of water, it just seemed to take forever to clear. In the back of my mind, I thought it would eventually go, then I started to doubt that – it just was not coming,” Evans said.
“Then I got some momentum, it cleared and it could go either way. I had been standing still and in that moment, it’s hard to know how long. It could be 20sec or 40sec, it’s so difficult to judge. There was a bit of a panic on to get to the end of the stage as quickly as possible.”
Thankfully for him the delay was not long enough to allow third-placed Thierry Neuville to snatch the runner-up spot. The Belgian eventually finished 19.2sec behind.
Ogier reflected on a victory that came as a surprise – if such a thing is possible for a man who has 52 WRC wins to his name.
He started first in the order on Friday’s opening leg, ploughing a line through loose gravel which became progressively cleaner and offered more grip with the passage of each car.
Ogier was expected to haemorrhage time but ended the day just over half a minute adrift of Ott Tänak and Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo. In Saturday’s improved conditions, he punched in a series of fastest times and capitalised when Tänak ripped a rear wheel from his i20 World Rally Car and Sordo rolled,
“It’s been an amazing weekend. I didn’t expect to come here and fight for the top position. To come away with 27 points, it’s really a good feeling,” he acknowledged.
“We made some work during the test between rallies. In Portugal, it was not as fast as I wanted, so I’m glad to come back with a car that I like much more and has more potential. It’s not every day you win Sardinia from being first on the road. We can enjoy this one.”