A clean run through the final day of Rally Italia Sardegna enabled Jan Kopecký to seal his third WRC 2 win of the year by more than three minutes.
After Stéphane Lefebvre's retirement on Saturday, the Skoda Motorsport driver knew all he had to do was clear Sunday's four stages cleanly to claim victory, and that is exactly what he did. He kept his Fabia R5 out of trouble on the rocky and rutted roads to win by 3m 02.6sec.
Twenty-five points for victory keeps Kopecky second in the drivers' standings, behind team-mate Pontus Tidemand. But with the Swede not participating in Italy, the gap between them slims to 18 points.
"The feeling is really nice because the Czech fans are everywhere here," Kopecký explained. "The rally didn't start completely perfect, but we've been fast the rest of the weekend and there were no mistakes."
Ole Christian Veiby secured runner-up spot in the second Skoda Motorsport Fabia R5. The Norwegian claimed a hat-trick of stage wins to add to his six from Saturday as he overhauled Hyundai i20 driver Nicolas Ciamin on the rally’s penultimate stage.
Ciamin claimed the final podium spot, deciding to focus on bringing the car home in one piece as the gravel tracks got rougher on the second run and rocks were pulled onto the racing line.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was one of the drivers caught out by the rough conditions in his i20 R5, he lost more than two minutes on the second run of the 14.06km Cala Flumini stage. That dropped him from fourth to sixth as Fabio Andolfi and Lukasz Pieniazek both squeezed their Skodas into the top five, despite a stall for the latter on the same stage.
Loubet’s woes were compounded when he was forced to retire at final control.
That promoted Benito Guerra to sixth after his retirement yesterday. Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Lefebvre rounded out the finishers - the Frenchman showing strong pace in his Citroën C3 R5 by claiming fastest WRC 2 time in the Sassari-Argentiera Live TV Power Stage.
Toyota development driver Takamoto Katsuta retired on SS17 with a broken driveshaft in his Ford Fiesta R5, while Simone Tempestini was unable to restart after mechanical issues with his Citroën on Saturday.