Italy driver report: Part 1
How did the top drivers fare in Italy?
Jari-Matti Latvala (VW Polo R)
Seven wins from 23 stages made Latvala [above] the fastest driver in Sardinia, (beating Ogier by one) but his speed was overshadowed by a couple of costly problems. Early on it looked like the Latvala vs Paddon duel would be the one to watch - but that changed after two punctures on Friday and Saturday cost him three minutes, while later damage to the suspension following a collision with a rock cost a further five. He fought back valiantly, and kept his foot down on the final day when fifth placed Østberg looked to be in trouble, but he missed out by 16.6sec.
Mads Østberg (DS 3)
Another up and down rally for Mads - and his cryptic comments at stage ends did little to explain why. Got off to a solid start, but then spun and clouted rocks on SS4. He later suffered two tyre deflations due to broken valves. Despite this by the final day he was up to an impressive third. But that went awry when an over zealous application of sunscreen to his ears caused one of his earplugs to slip out mid-stage. Distracted, he went off shortly afterwards, breaking a brake disc and dropping to fifth.
Ott Tänak (Ford Fiesta RS)
The Estonian struggled to find a comfortable rhythm early in the rally, but his cautious approach began to pay dividends as those around hit trouble. By SS16 he was more confident and sitting in a seemingly comfortable third place. Sadly the Sardinian stages had other ideas, and he stopped when a heavy impact after a jump left his gearbox stuck in gear. He rejoined on Sunday and was able to salvage manufacturer points.
Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
The surprise of the rally, Paddon wrote himself into the history books with a terrific drive to second place that drew praise from all corners of the service park - from his own team principal (expected) to defending champion Sebastien Ogier (never guaranteed). Paddon capitalised on his late position in the start order, then confounded expectations by keeping his rapid pace on the repeat passes. Proved he was handy with the spanners too when a broken gearbox threatened to end his run.
Lorenzo Bertelli (Ford Fiesta RS)
This was no home round triumph for Bertelli. He spun on the opening Super Special, then broke a damper when the rally resumed and had to nurse his car through Friday morning's stages. He retired that evening when his car developed a serious oil leak. He restarted on Saturday, but so did the leak, and he returned to service after just one stage. A Sunday restart proved just as short-lived and he retired after the penultimate stage.
Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20)
A 10-sec penalty for a jump start at the opening Super Special set the tone for a disappointing rally. Without the penalty he would have been second on Friday - and even with it he was a strong fourth until he ripped a wheel off. He rejoined on Saturday and spent much of the morning rueing his mistake. His rally ended for a second time after SS13 when his car lost fuel pressure. Returned again on Sunday for the experience and brought his car home in 20th place.
Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
In his own words this was "a complicated rally with many problems". It started with a spin on the Super Special and went downhill once the rally proper started. Struggling early on with his pace notes, he retired on Stage three after missing a braking point and wrecking his rear suspension on a wall. He restarted on Saturday in the unenviable position of second on the road, before being hit by a tsunami of issues including a faulty intercom and punctures or deflations on Stages 13, 14 and 15. He retired for a second time after Stage 17 when he broke a wheel and a heavy impact left his car stuck in fifth gear.