Yurii Protasov spoiled Paolo Andreucci’s 50th birthday celebrations by defeating the Italian by 5.6sec in a dramatic finale to the WRC 2 support category at Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday.
An opening stage puncture cost Protasov his overnight lead and left multiple Italian champion Andreucci with a 6.7sec advantage, and on the verge of making the most of his birthday present of a one-off WRC appearance.
But he damaged the radiator of his Peugeot 208 T16 in the same stage and Protasov struck back to regain the lead in the next test. They were split by just half a second going into the final stage, but Protasov did enough to claim the win.
“It wasn’t an easy way to win but definitely a more interesting way,” he said. “When I had the puncture I didn’t think it was all over. I had the power to push hard – and that was enough!”
Andreucci led for virtually all the opening two legs, but Protasov paced himself before charging up the order from fourth to first last night in his Ford Fiesta RS.
Jan Kopecký finished third in a Skoda Fabia R5, a further 2min 44.0sec behind, with Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari fourth. Nasser Al-Attiyah recovered from an opening leg crash to take fifth in a Fiesta RRC, and that promoted the Qatari into the championship lead.
Germany’s Armin Kremer completed the top six in another Fabia R5 after a damaged turbo pipe sent Nicolas Fuchs from an overnight fifth to seventh in his Fiesta R5.
Gianluca Linari won the Production Cup category within WRC 2 in a Subaru Impreza by more than 14 minutes from Joan Carchat. Linari now leads the championship.