The first win of 2023 for the Belgian driver on the i20 N Rally1 arrived after four challenging days in the Italian Rally. One-two Hyundai with Lappi-Fermi in second place. 3rd Rovanpera-Halttunen, Toyota GR Yaris, winners of the Wolf Power Stage, holding their leadership in FIA WRC. Mikkelsen wins in WRC2, Creighton in Junior category.
Olbia, Sunday 4th June 2023 – “It was the toughest Rally Italia Sardegna ever”. That’s what all the 71 protagonists who participated in the 20th edition of the Italian round of the FIA World Rally Championship said, a rally organized by Automobile Club d’Italia with Regione Sardegna. A very challenging edition, due also to the anomalous weather conditions that have contributed to multiply the pitfalls and the unpredictability of the route in the north-east of the Island. A four-day-long show in which the drivers faced 19 special stages (320,88 km for a total of 1168,22 km), with Olbia as the headquarters of the event. The winner of this challenging edition was Thierry Neuville joined by Martjin Wydaeghe on Hyundai i20 N Rally1. First victory for the Belgian in 2023, his third one at Rally Italia Sardegna after those of 2016 and 2018, which takes both him and Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT to second place in the WRC standings. The sixth successful result for the Korean team in the last eight years in Sardinia. The i20 results now the most winning car in the history of the Rally Italia Sardegna.
During the rally, Neuville won six of nineteen special stages. Particularly decisive were those of Saturday afternoon, "Su Filigosu" and "Tempio Pausania", which gave him the lead, despite the mud and water splash that slowed many other drivers. His team-mate Esapekka Lappi with Janne Ferm on another i20 Rally1 was the first one to attack already with his success in the SSS1 “Olbia-Cabu Abbas” on Thursday evening. The Finn then continued extraordinarily and managed to stay ahead of everyone on the second day as well, after the two passages on the longer "Monte Lerno", in which he fought with Sebastien Ogier and Vincent Landais on Toyota GR Yaris Rally. A challenge that continued until Saturday afternoon, then the French went off at two stages to the leg end. So Lappi started to manage and defend his second position, while Neuville, the only driver who didn’t make any mistakes, got the lead.
Kalle Rovanpera – WRC leader – stayed out of trouble. The Finn flanked by Jonne Halttunen on Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 had a good race weekend thanks also to the win he got on “Sardegna – Wolf Power Stage”, the fourteenth in his career and the third in 2023. The 22-year-old driver got the third position at 1’55 from Neuville. Behind him, his team-mate Elfyn Evans, joined by Scott Martin on another Yaris. The British, like many other drivers, was unlucky at the watersplash at the end of SS13 which increased his already substantial gap. The same for Ott Tanak, with Martin Jarveoja on Ford Puma Rally1, which forced him to stop on the Saturday leg. The Estonian came back to take part in the Wolf Power Stage, in which he signed the second-best time. Takamoto Katsuta, with Martin Scott on Toyota, was third in the Wolf Power Stage, while the other M-Sport Ford WRT driver, Pierre Louis Loubet flanked by Nicolas Gilsoul, due to gearbox issues of his Puma had to retire. On the final day, Dani Sordo and Candido Carrera on the Hyundai i20 had engine power issues, that forced him to retire. Not a good weekend for the Spaniard, that on Friday was involved in a rollover.
A final twist in WRC2. Andreas Mikkelsen and Torstein Eriksen on Skoda Fabia RS won in their category. The Norwegians got the overall victory in the pouring rain on the 'Sardegna Wolf Power Stage' when Adrien Formaux and Alexandre Coria were leading throughout the weekend on their M-Sport Ford Fiesta Mk II, but they went off on the very last stage. Mikkelsen, who was convinced to be 2nd, was always in his back and got his success in the Italian rally just a few kilometers from the end of the Wolf Power Stage. Hyundai i20 N crew Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula, like many others, were caught up in the pitfalls during the first two days, losing the possibility to reach the top positions. The podium was almost unexpectedly conquered by Kajetan Kajetanowcz and Maciej Szczepaniak, also on Skoda Fabia RS. Yohan Rossel and Arnaud Dunand on Citroen C3 got more points thanks to their success in the SS19. The victory of WRC2 Wolf Power Stage went to Gregoire Munster con Louis Louka su Ford Fiesta.
Matteo Gamba and Nicolò Gonella on Skoda Fabia Rally2 completed the challenge at Rally Italia Sardegna. They were the best Italian crew in the rally, and they got the 17th position overall, despite a puncture on the long “Erula-Tula” stage on Saturday. Then Nicola Tali flanked by Massimiliano Frau on another Skoda waved the Sardinian flag. They were limited in the final part of Friday because of a rock hit on the “Monte Lerno”.
RALLY ITALIA SAREDGNA FINAL STANDINGS: 1. NEUVILLE-WYDAEGHE (HYUNDAI i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) in 3:40'01.4; 2. LAPPI-FERM (HYUNDAI i20 N Rally1 HYBRID) a 33.0; 3. ROVANPERÃ-HALTTUNEN (TOYOTA GR Yaris Rally1 HYBRID) a 1'55.3; 4. EVANS-MARTIN (TOYOTA GR Yaris Rally1 HYBRID) a 5'20.5; 5. MIKKELSEN-ERIKSEN (SKODA Fabia RS) a 9'33.3; 6. SUNINEN-MARKKULA (HYUNDAI i20 N) a 11'48.9; 7. KAJETANOWICZ-SZCZEPANIAK (SKODA Fabia RS) a 12'46.1; 8. ROSSEL-DUNAND (CITROEN C3) a 12'53.5; 9. MARCZYK-GOSPODARCZYK (SKODA Fabia RS) a 15'33.8; 10. CAIS-TESINSKY (SKODA Fabia RS) a 16'49.4
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