Evgeny Novikov put in a great performance on Rally Italia Sardegna last weekend to secure his second podium of the year.

The M-Sport Ford man has continued to mature this season and ran a near perfect rally, coupling speed with composure and consistency.

The Russian moved up into the runners-up spot on Friday afternoon and in the end took the position with ease, winning three stages en-route to matching the second place he achieved in Portugal, although of course then he was bumped up post-event when Mikko Hirvonen was excluded due to technical irregularities on his Citroen DS3 WRC.

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"It was a very long rally with some very difficult stages, but it has been a great weekend for us. We had to always keep concentrated but we are very happy, he remarked. "I had a birthday last month when I turned 22, and now I have two podiums, both in second place, so I think it was meant to be!"

Asked if he ever thought he might be able to challenge Hirvonen for the win, Novikov said that wasn't something he considered.

"To be honest I never had that thought. If you see how many podiums Mikko has and how many we have... We decided it was better to keep the position and finish in second rather than take risks, because it was very easy to go off the road. So the plan was just to keep the position," he confirmed.

Novikov's new co-driver Ilka Minor meanwhile added that it was a difficult event: "It wasn't an easy weekend. It was very tough [at times] and a lot of drivers went off the road. It wasn't easy especially because our relationship is only three rallies old, but we could find a good rhythm together and it was really good," she continued.

"Sitting with Evgeny after Denis [Giraudet, who was sidelined after suffering back injuries in Finland] wasn't so easy, as he's really experienced. But even with my little experience, it has been working very well."

"It's going very well [working with Ilka], I'm very happy," Novikov chipped in. "Everything is just perfect to be honest, it's really good.

"I want to thank Ilka again - she trusted me and she is not scared to be with me in the car."