Thursday | 01 Jun 2017

Sardinia countdown: 2016 rewind

We begin our build-up to Rally Italia Sardegna (8 - 11 June) with a look back to last year, when Thierry Neuville answered his critics with a dramatic return to form. Here's how the action unfolded:

Friday 10 June

An estimated 10,000 people packed the Ittiri arena on Thursday evening to watch Sébastien Ogier win the rally's opening stage, but when the action resumed on Friday, all eyes were on the lead duel between Neuville and Jari-Matti Latvala.

The lead changed hands on every stage as the pair fought tooth and nail in intense heat. Neuville eased ahead in the afternoon to eke out an 11.1sec advantage in his Hyundai i20 as Latvala battled an understeering Volkswagen Polo R.

Road opener Ogier gambled on soft compound tyres in the morning to try to improve grip on the slippery gravel. The Polo R driver held the leading duo in check but slipped back in the afternoon to end 40.3sec off the lead.
 
Andreas Mikkelsen overhauled Mads Østberg in the final stage to grab fourth by 1.0sec in his Polo R. Dani Sordo completed the top six, a further 20.1sec behind.
 
In trouble were Hayden Paddon, who rolled heavily down a hillside into retirement, and Eric Camilli who dropped minutes with a broken rear differential.

Saturday 8 June

The back-and-forth duel at the front continued. Latvala reduced Neuville’s overnight lead to less than three seconds in the morning as handling issues hindered the Hyundai driver. But the Belgian won two stages in the afternoon to rebuild his lead and end 16.1sec clear.
 
An overnight gearbox change left Latvala more confident with his Volkswagen's handling but he was no match for his rival’s drive through the final 44.26km Monte Lerno test. Road opener Ogier endured the worst of the conditions. He ended 58.9sec adrift of Latvala in third.

Less than four seconds covered Ogier, Østberg and Mikkelsen after the morning as the Norwegian duo closed on the struggling Frenchman. However, both Scandinavians retired in the afternoon to leave Ogier over a minute clear of  Sordo. Mikkelsen was first to go, exiting fifth with a broken track control arm after hitting a rock. Then Østberg parked his Ford Fiesta RS after clipping a rock and breaking the front suspension.

Sunday 9 June

After a troubled start to the season, all came good for Neuville on Sunday as he eased through the final leg to take victory by 24.8sec.

Second-placed Latvala conceded defeat in the morning when the gap rose towards 20sec. His Volkswagen team-mate Ogier extended his championship lead by finishing third.

Sordo claimed fourth to climb to second in the points standings. Tänak and Camilli, who claimed a maiden stage victory in the morning, completed the top six.
 
Henning Solberg overcame final day suspension problems to finish seventh ahead of WRC 2 winner Teemu Suninen.

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