Thierry Neuville won the 2018 Rally Italia Sardegna by just 0.7s ahead of championship rival Sébastien Ogier after a dramatic last stage shootout on Sunday.
The Belgian went into the final stage of the event 0.8s behind Ogier but managed to take a 1.5s win on the Sassari ‘Powerstage’, giving him a narrow victory over the M-Sport Ford driver than extends his lead in the championship to 27 points.
Ogier’s second place finish came under investigation however, after it emerged that he and co-driver Julien Ingrassia forgot their timecard after the end of the Cala Flumini stage and had to wait for Toyota driver Ott Tänak to bring it to them while still in the same running position.
The stewards decided to give the M-Sport pair a suspended points penalty after deeming them to have received ‘outside assistance’, meaning that the points will be taken away if they commit another infringement before the end of this season. They were also fined 10,000 euros.
Neuville and Ogier were separated by just 3.9s going into the final four stages on Sunday and Hyundai driver Neuville managed to win all four, eventually helping him leapfrog Ogier into first place by the end of the event.
Neuville said on his win: “I gave it everything, it was a really great fight and such a small difference at the end. We needed to make a decision at the start of the last stage and our decision was to go for the win. We believed strongly and pushed hard.”
Second placed Ogier commented on his weekend: ““We lost one battle but definitely not the war. It’s not the time to panic. I tried everything I could today but I was always losing a few tenths here and there.”
Behind the close battle at the front was the Toyota of Esapekka Lappi who took a controlled third after the devastating demise of teammate Jari-Matti Latvala late on Saturday evening. The Finn finished ahead of Hayden Paddon in the second Hyundai after he got the better of Mads Østberg in the leading Citroen. Craig Breen rounded out the top six overall.
Seventh went to the recovering Toyota of Latvala who restarted on Sunday morning and he finished ahead of WRC2 class winner Jan Kopecký who took a dominating victory in the Skoda Fabia R5. A recovering Tänak finished ninth with Teemu Suninen rounding out the top 10 overall.
The WRC2 podium was completed by Ole Christian Veiby in a sister Fabia to Kopecký and Hyundai driver Nicolas Ciamin in third.
The 2018 FIA World Rally Championship now takes a summer break before returning with Neste Rally Finland between July 26-29.