Sebastien Loeb held onto his overnight lead to win Rally d'Italia Sardegna and extend his lead in the World Rally Championship drivers' standings.
The Citroen driver took a lead of 28.3 seconds into the final day having led since midday on Friday. Although second-placed Mikko Hirvonen trimmed the Frenchman's lead over the final four stages, he was still 11.2 seconds adrift at the rally end after winning the power stage. The Finnish Ford driver was left rueing a day one puncture that cost him the chance to take the fight to Loeb.
Another man who could have stopped Loeb was Petter Solberg who, after winning the opening stage on Friday, lost 40 seconds to a turbo issue on his privately-entered Citroen DS3. He was able to recover to finish third. Sebastien Ogier had been in the fight with Hirvonen and Solberg for second, but suffered broken suspension on the penultimate stage, forcing him to settle for fourth.
What of Hirvonen's teammate Jari-Matti Latvala? The Finn rolled on the opening stage of the day, and although he was able to win nine stages after returning on Saturday, he finished down in 18th after more than 30 minutes of time penalties under the superally rules.
Mads Ostberg enjoyed a solid run to fifth as the best of five Fiestas entered by the M-Sport Stobart team. Dani Sordo finished sixth on the debut for Mini and their world rally car. Teammate Kris Meeke had run as high as fourth on Friday morning but went off the road after a throttle problem.
Ostberg's teammates Evgeny Novikov and PG Andersson were in contention for podium places on the opening day. Novikov crashed his Fiesta, recovering to 14th after restarting, while Andersson lost time repairing a broken steering arm and finished 15th. Henning Solberg retired after a variety of problems, while Matthew Wilson had a quiet rally finishing down in ninth place.
Of the other Fiesta RS WRCs, Khalid Al Qassimi finished 13th in the Team Abu Dhabi entry, Federico Villagra was 17th in the Munchi's entry after hitting a bridge on the opening stage of the rally, while Dennis Kuipers retired the FERM car on the final day. Armindo Araujo, Patrik Flodin and Daniel Oliveira were also behind the wheel of Minis, finishing 12th, 19th and 29th respectively. Two further Citroen DS3s were entered by Van Merksteijn Motorsport, with Peter senior retiring on the first day with his son Peter junior joining him on the second.
Ott Tanak finished in seventh place and took SWRC honours as the best of the Super 2000 entries, beating Juho Hanninen, who finished eighth, and Martin Prokop, who scored the final WRC point in tenth. Egon Kaur scored his second WRC Academy win in as many events.
Loeb now has a seven point lead over Hirvonen in the standings, with Ogier twelve points further back. The next event is Rally Argentina on 26-29 May.
Final results after 18 stages:
|1.||1||Sebastien Loeb||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||3:45:40.9|
|2.||3||Mikko Hirvonen||Ford Abu Dhabi||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+11.2|
|3.||11||Petter Solberg||PSWRT||Citroen DS3 WRC||+23.8|
|4.||2||Sebastien Ogier||Citroen Total||Citroen DS3 WRC||+1:31.5|
|5.||6||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+2:42.6|
|6.||37||Dani Sordo||Mini||Mini John Cooper Works WRC||+3:27.6|
|7.||22||Ott Tanak||MM Motorsport||Ford Fiesta S2000||+7:10.9|
|8.||25||Juho Hanninen||Red Bull Skoda||Skoda Fabia S2000||+7:37.6|
|9.||5||Matthew Wilson||M-Sport Stobart||Ford Fiesta RS WRC||+8:00.4|
|10.||21||Martin Prokop||Czech||Ford Fiesta S2000||+11:28.2|