Mads Ostberg was next up and fourth in his Adapta WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC. The Norwegian looked set for a podium early on, but a rear differential failure on the repeat loop on Friday dropped him back. He fought back though on Saturday, winning four of the day's six stages and in the processing hauled himself back up the leaderboard.
VW Motorsport man Sebastien Ogier beat Chris Atkinson to fifth, the Aussie's challenge fading in the final stage when he picked up a puncture and lost over a minute in his WRC MINI Team Portugal John Cooper Works WRC car. The two had been separated by just 5.3 seconds ahead of the second-run through Gallura.
Ogier was delighted to take P5 in his Skoda Fabia S2000 and the fact he set the pace in SS5 on Friday – the first time in WRC history a S2000 car has been quickest overall in a test – was another reason for cheer.
“It was a perfect weekend and we got the perfect result. I'm very happy to give it to the team also as a boost of confidence in preparation for next year [when we will use the Polo R WRC]. We were probably helped by our start position and because we saved tyres with the S2000. It was good fun in the car though and we had a very good drive,” said the Frenchman.
Further back, Andreas Mikkelsen was seventh in the sister VW Motorsport-run Skoda Fabia S2000, albeit 50 seconds off P6 and almost double that off Ogier.
Of the rest, Martin Prokop came in eighth, with Solberg ninth, having rejoined on Saturday under the Rally 2 regulations. The Norwegian was bitterly disappointed with his mistake on the Friday, and while he was quickest in the Power Stage that wasn't much consolation, especially given a victory could have been on the cards: “I'm sad for Malcolm and Ford. I failed and that's the hard part,” Solberg admitted. “I always want to do my best and this time I got it wrong, which is quite frustrating. I want to go to Spain now and win for the team.”
Luca Pedersoli rounded out the top ten and took the final WRC drivers' point on his first outing at the top-level in over a decade: “It's amazing, I take home one WRC drivers' point which is great. This was our target coming into the event so I can say it is mission accomplished. It's unbelievable. It was a tough race but we made no mistakes and I'm very, very happy. It wasn't easy as every corner is so difficult here and it's easy to make a mistake and go off. I hope to be back soon, maybe in 2013,” he noted.
Giuseppe Dettori ended up just outside the top ten in eleventh in his Skoda Fabia S2000, while Latvala, Thierry Neuville and Paulo Nobre were 12th, 18th and 19th respectively, all taking advantage of the Rally 2 rules to get to the end.
In the PWRC, Nicolas Fuchs took the victory, despite brakes issues and two punctures. Marcos Ligato was second, 30.4 seconds back, while Valeriy Gorban completed the Production class podium.
The WRC now moves to Spain next for the season finale, with that event running from November 8-11.
To view the result for the 2012 Rally Italia Sardegna - CLICK HERE