by Rob Wilkins
Subaru team leader Petter Solberg has won the Rally Italia Sardinia today [Sunday], dominating the event from the outset, and eventually taking the honours by 2 minutes 7.9 seconds.
'Hollywood' led from SS1, winning 13 of the 19 stages en-route to his third victory in as many events, following his triumphs in Japan and Wales.
"It's a fantastic feeling, but it's been really hard work all the way – Phil [Mills] was cheering as we crossed the finish line, but I was still too focused on the driving to take it all in! It's been a very good few rallies, let me tell you, and it's a great feeling to take another win here, the team have been working so hard, and I think we've proved that we're the best team on gravel now," he said.
"The event has been good fun to drive, I didn't feel I was pushing to the limit, but the tyres were good, the car worked well and when everything comes together like that it's much easier for me. Pirelli have been very good here, I must say, our tyre choices have been perfect all weekend and I want to thank them, the team and everyone at Subaru for a great job."
Championship leader, Sebastien Loeb took second and is now within touching distance of his maiden world title - 26 points in front of Solberg, with only three rounds to go, and therefore a maximum of 30 points available to score.
"Just after the first stage, I said to myself that it will be difficult to beat Petter Solberg here. I went faster in some places but he always kept his lead," explained Loeb. "When Marcus Gronholm had some problems, I thought it wasn't stupid to go for the second place. And that's what we've done, just before two events, which should be favourable to us. Actually, I won't hide that I would really like to win Corsica."
Carlos Sainz took third in the sister Xsara WRC, to strengthen Citroen's position in the manufacturers' championship. They are now 47 points in front of Ford.
"This event was very difficult for the engineers and the technicians as we were driving on new terrain. We had to quickly find the most appropriate settings. It was also very tricky for the drivers due to the very narrow stages and the rocks interspersing on the sides. Despite all that, the team has scored a fantastic result with two cars in the top three. On my side, I'm now lying third in the Drivers' Championship and I will try to defend this position," noted the Spaniard.
Andrea Navarra was fourth, in his Subaru Impreza WRC on his home event. His result was the best achieved by any privateer entry all season.