Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier took a dominant victory on Rally Italia Sardegna this weekend and in the process stretched his lead in the Drivers' Championship.
Ogier was a man on a mission in Sardinia this week, the seventh round in the 2013 World Rally Championship, and after the disappointment in Greece - when a fuel pressure problem put him out in the opening test - the Frenchman was determined to reassert his authority and so he did.
Ogier, who had been third quickest in qualifying, seized top spot in the very first test, when he was 5.3 seconds up on Mikko Hirvonen. He was then second in SS2 and first in SS3 building an initial 20.5 second buffer, which he proceeded to double on the repeat loop before setting the second and third fastest times on the two night time runs through the 13.55 km Gallura test. He concluded day one with a 46.6 second advantage.
On Saturday – the second and final leg – the Volkswagen ace won four more tests, including the Power Stage, and he eventually brought his Polo R WRC home 1 minute 16.8 seconds up on Thierry Neuville. It was his fourth victory of the season and the result sees him stretch his advantage in the title race from 52 points to 64 going into the WRC's summer hiatus.
“It's been a good rally for us, we just managed it perfectly. We pushed when we could and were careful when it was rough. At the end it was just perfect,” Ogier said.
Neuville meanwhile took an impressive second for the Qatar World Rally Team, winning two stages on Friday as he hauled himself up from fourth and ahead of both Mads Ostberg and Dani Sordo. It is the Belgian's best result to date in the WRC – and his third rostrum of 2013, after finishing third in Greece and Mexico.
“We had a spin [in the last test] and we had to slow down and turn around. [But] I think our strategy [throughout the event] was quite good,” said Neuville. “Now I think we can go for some more speed in Finland.”
Jari-Matti Latvala was next up, battling his way back into the top three after a puncture in the very first stage on Friday, which cost the Finn almost 2 minutes and any hope of a second win on the trot. Nevertheless he was delighted with his performance overall and in total he won six stages – just one less than team-mate and rally winner, Ogier: “Speed wise I have taken one more step forward,” said Latvala. “I'm pretty happy with the car. I am looking forward to Finland now and at least I have a good result going there.”
Volkswagen's 1-3 result also sees the German car giant extend its lead over Citroen in the Manufacturers', with the two now separated by 46 points.