Sébastien Ogier claimed maximum points from Rally Italia Sardegna on Sunday after winning both his fourth WRC event of the season and the final live TV Power Stage.
After a fierce fight with Hayden Paddon, Ogier eventually enjoyed a comfortable 3min 05.3sec victory in his Volkswagen Polo R over the New Zealander, who produced the surprise of the rally by heading the world champion for almost two days.
After problems late yesterday, Paddon’s consolation was a career-best second in a Hyundai i20. Belgium’s Thierry Neuville finished 4min 22.5sec off the lead in third, ensuring two podium places for the Korean manufacturer.
Ogier was the only frontrunner to avoid major problems as the rocky roads took a heavy toll. He leads the championship by 66 points from Citroën’s Mads Østberg, with seven of the 13 rounds remaining.
The Frenchman overcame the handicap of sweeping gravel from the roads for the opening two days, and only demoted Paddon, in his first full WRC season, when the Kiwi spun and later hit a rock and damaged his gearbox.
“Hayden did a great job and deserves his podium,” said Ogier. “I didn’t expect this kind of result here. It was very difficult to open the road but the times got better and better. Everything was perfect all weekend, from the car to the weather forecasts.”
Paddon became the first New Zealand driver to lead a WRC round outside his home country. But with victory gone after yesterday’s problems, he eased through the final day, hiding the fact he was nursing his car.
“We still had some damage from the impact yesterday so we were lucky to get here,” he said after the final stage. “I’m very relieved, it was a massive weekend but there’s more to come yet,” he promised.
Neuville climbed to third this morning after Østberg went off the road in the opening stage and damaged his DS 3’s brakes. He limped through the final three tests, falling behind both Neuville and Elfyn Evans but holding off Jari-Matti Latvala.
After driveshaft problems on the opening day, Evans recovered to finish fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS, 1min 12.3sec behind Neuville and more than two minutes clear of Østberg.
Latvala threw everything at his attempt to overhaul Østberg, but fell 16.6sec short and settled for sixth in another Polo R. The leaderboard was completed by WRC 2 trio Yurii Protasov, Paolo Andreucci and Jan Kopecky, and Khalid Al Qassimi.
Among those to finish down the order were Andreas Mikkelsen (suspension / fuel pressure), Kris Meeke (accident), Dani Sordo (wheel off / fuel pressure), Ott Tänak (gearbox) and Robert Kubica (gearbox).
Round seven of the series is the all-gravel LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland which is based in Mikolajki on 2 - 5 July.