Thu 08 Jun 2023

Talking points from Rally Italia Sardegna

Rally Italia Sardegna delivered one of the most exhilarating FIA World Rally Championship events in recent years. We look back at some of the key talking points.

Star Drive
Esapekka Lappi may not have taken the top step of the podium, finishing second to teammate Thierry Neuville, but his performance was certainly worthy of the win.

The Finn led for a portion of the Mediterranean island event, trading blows with Toyota rival Sébastien Ogier - a seasoned eight-time world champion.

It was only when fate intervened, and Ogier left the road on Saturday afternoon (see below), that the course of competition changed. Lappi instinctively backed off upon witnessing the Frenchman’s stricken car, fully aware of his role at Hyundai and the expectations placed upon designated team leader Thierry Neuville.

A true team player with three consecutive podium finishes now in the bag, Rally Italia Sardegna served as yet another reminder that Lappi is capable of fighting right at the sharp end. It can’t be long before he claims his long-awaited first win for the team.

Top 5 Moments: WRC Rally Italia Sardegna 2023

Most memorable stage
Sunday’s finale bore witness to the 50th edition of the bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage - and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

Torrential downpours brought about conditions reminiscent of Safari Rally Kenya while Adrien Fourmaux, driving a Ford Fiesta Rally2, delivered some late drama that nobody was expecting.

The Frenchman had been leading WRC2 by a comfortable margin but slid wide on a left-hander, plunging his car off the road and out of the rally with suspension damage. There was a look of disbelief on Andreas Mikkelsen’s face as he and co-driver Torstein Eriksen were declared the winners in the category.

Biggest surprise
It’s very rare to see Sébastien Ogier make a mistake. His off on Saturday - while leading the rally - was peculiar, as his GR Yaris appeared to simply understeer off the outside of a seemingly harmless left-hand bend.

Ogier later revealed that he and co-driver Vincent Landais were made aware of a soft tire prior to starting the stage and hurried to replace the wheel within the allotted time. In his haste, Ogier didn’t have time to clean the mud from the sole of his racing boot. As a result, his foot slipped off the brake pedal - and that was that.

WATCH: Ogier's crash at Rally Italia Sardegna

Best save
‘You bend it, you mend it’. Dani Sordo took those words literally when he rolled his Hyundai in SS4 on Friday morning.

The Spaniard nursed the car back to service in Olbia where his mechanics set about repairing the damage. But time was running short, so Sordo and co-driver Cándido Carrera both rolled up their sleeves and joined the effort.

They incurred a 1min 20sec penalty for being late out of service but did fight back as high as fifth overall by Saturday evening. However, an exhaust problem - which posed a fire risk - ended Sordo’s rally on the final day.

You’ll never believe it
This rally was a gruelling one. So gruelling, in fact, that only two of the eight FIA Junior WRC entrants made it to the finish without utilising restart rules.

Number of the rally
20 - the anniversary Rally Italia Sardegna celebrated last weekend. Petter Solberg and Phil Mills, winners of the 2004 event, were in attendance at the Olbia service park - as was their Subaru Impreza WRC.

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