We conclude our review of the WRC drivers from last weekend’s Rally Italia Sardegna with our second round-up:
Sébastien Ogier (VW Polo R)
If he felt pressure after being beaten by his team-mate in Argentina, he didn’t show it. He was VERY unhappy at running first on the road in the opening leg, but was only 22s off the lead at the close. Problem was that the leader was Latvala. Reduced the gap to 12s, before capitalising on the Finn’s damaged wheel. It would have been fascinating to see a final day head-to-head battle…
Mads Ostberg (Citroen DS3)
Another podium and now lies third in the championship. They are the hard facts. But they hide a mature drive from the Norwegian, who had Latvala breathing down his neck on the final day. He repelled the challenge to deliver big points for Citroen, which was essential after Kris Meeke’s first day retirement. Unrecognisable from the deflated driver of 2013, and you get the impression there is more to come.
Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta RS)
Hirvonen always goes well in Sardinia and was looking good through the early stages on Friday. Then flames started leaping from the rear of his Fiesta en route to stage four and a few minutes later both the car and the surrounding countryside were ablaze. The car was destroyed and Mikko was hugely upset, but thankfully both he and co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen were uninjured. The cause remains a mystery.
Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20)
Sure, Neuville had the advantage of cleaner roads, but the Belgian impressed hugely to lead on the opening morning. He plunged down the order after spending almost 25 minutes fixing a suspension problem in stage five and that was that as far as a result was concerned. But starting second on the road on Saturday and third on Sunday, amongst all the loose stones, was good experience for the fledgling Korean manufacturer.
Andreas Mikkelsen (VW Polo R)
This was Mikkelsen’s third consecutive fourth place. He was fighting for third with fellow Norwegian Ostberg until a broken damper on Saturday afternoon ended the battle. A shame as that fight would have been for second after Latvala’s problems. Took consolation by looking after his Michelin’s throughout Sunday and winning the Power Stage. Enough to make returning co-driver Ola Floene emotional.
Henning Solberg (Ford Fiesta RS)
Once again, Henning jumped into a car that lack of finance meant he hadn’t tested and set good times. It has been like this for a long time now, but the Norwegian never lets the budget issues bother him. The WRC would be much poorer without his flamboyant character and we have to hope the money lasts to see him through the remaining European events. Seventh place leaves him 10th in the standings.
Robert Kubica (Ford Fiesta RS)
Good to see the Pole smiling. He admitted this was the first time he had enjoyed himself behind the wheel on a gravel rally. Kubica was looking good for fifth until he broke his suspension after clouting a rock on Saturday afternoon, but you feel he finally understands what WRC is all about. We hope he understands how manic life is going to be when he turns up for Rally Poland later this month……