Friday | 17 Jun 2016

Italy driver report: Part 2

We look at how the leading drivers fared on the gravel roads of Sardinia in the second part of our summary.

Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R)
Result: 2nd
His bid for the title looks over, but second in Italy puts Jari-Matti [above] back in contention for the runner-up spot. Things looked promising early on, when he took the lead on the opening morning and benefited from an advantageous road position, but a mechanical problem held him back on Friday. A faulty diff meant his Polo lacked front-end bite and by the end of the day he was 11sec off Thierry Neuville's lead. He closed most of that gap on Saturday morning before a stunning push on SS13 from Neuville undid most of his hard work. Unable to reel in the Belgian in the afternoon, by Sunday his mission was to keep out of trouble and collect the points.
Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
Result: Retired
You have to feel sorry for Paddon who has followed the high of a debut victory in Argentina with two heavy lows in Portugal and now Sardinia. Even before he went off on SS7 it wasn't a trouble-free event. He struggled to find a rhythm on the opening stages, then broke his rear suspension on a wall after he spun off in SS4. But third quickest on SS5 and SS6 suggested he might have turned a corner - before he drifted off line in SS7 and emphatically didn't.

Mads Ostberg (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: Retired
His rally didn't go the full distance but there were positives for Mads to take away. Firstly, his mysterious down-shifting problem seems to have gone. Secondly, he was right in the thick of the podium fight when he bowed out. He would have been even closer had he not decided to carry an extra spare tyre on Friday afternoon - a safety measure he later agreed was unnecessary. A wrecked engine was a heavy price to pay for a rock strike, but Mads can be satisfied by his achievements to that point.
Kevin Abbring (Hyundai i20)
Result: 15th
Abbring doesn't get many chances to show us what he can do, so we felt his disappointment when his car's propshaft snapped on the way to Friday's first stage. He duly limped through the opening loop with front-wheel drive and was almost seven minutes off the lead before his team could make repairs. After that there were more ups and downs. He bagged his first WRC stage win on Saturday morning and helped the team to a stage 1-2 on SS12, but later picked up a puncture and a cracked gearbox. Sunday was more up than down and he finished second in the live TV Power Stage to claim his maiden WRC points.

Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta RS)
Result: 5th
This rally was all about tyres for the Estonian. Specifically, how to get the best from DMACK's upgraded gravel range. Second fastest on the opening stage, just three-tenths adrift of Sébastien Ogier, was a great start but he quickly found the limit of the new rubber on Friday's abrasive roads. Better able to manage the tyre characteristics on Saturday he claimed a fine stage win on SS11 and moved up four places into the top-five. Plenty of lessons learned for Poland.
Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
Result: 1st
Pretty much the perfect comeback from Neuville who has been wandering the WRC wilderness for far too long. On days one and two he made the most of his start position and held his own in a back and forth lead battle with Latvala, especially on the repeated, cleaner, stages where his Hyundai excels. He gave Latvala a fright with a terrific time on SS13, when he gained 10.8sec, but the hammer blow came on the repeated Monte Lerno, when he was 3.2sec quicker though a stage Latvala said he couldn't have driven better. Top job.


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