THIERRY NEUVILLE AND HIS CO-DRIVER NICOLAS GILSOUL NOTCHED UP THEIR SECOND WORLD CLASS VICTORY TODAY IN THEIR HYUNDAI EQUIPPED WITH MICHELIN LTX FORCE TYRES. HE WAS JOINED ON THE 2016 RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA PODIUM BY VOLKSWAGEN/MICHELIN’S JARI-MATTI LATVALA AND SÉBASTIEN OGIER. THE WRC2 CLASS OF THE CALENDAR’S ROUGHEST FIXTURE PRODUCED A SKODA/MICHELIN ONE-TWO.
Neuville’s maiden WRC victory, in Germany, in 2014, was followed by a long barren period which was finally broken this weekend after the Belgian dominated his rivals over Sardinia’s twisty, narrow stages.
Neuville and VW’s Latvala took advantage of their late running order to pull clear of the field from the outset. Their duel saw them emerge from Saturday morning’s competitive loop split by less than three seconds. The Hyundai driver won the next three stages, however, to pull out an overnight lead of 16.1s ahead of Sunday’s finale.
He then controlled from in front to beat the Finn by a margin of 24.8s and notch up Hyundai/Michelin’s second success of the year after Paddon’s triumph in Argentina. In contrast, the New Zealander suffered his second crash in two rallies.
The rally also saw a fierce scrap for third place which opposed Sébastien Ogier (VW/Michelin), who was once again on road-sweeping duty, Andreas Mikkelsen (VW/Michelin) and Mads Ostberg (Ford/Michelin) who collected his first stage victory of the season (SS12). The two Norwegians both retired on Saturday afternoon to leave Ogier free to secure the bronze medal and increase his lead in the provisional championship standings.
Dani Sordo (Hyundai/Michelin) ended up fourth overall for the fourth time this season, and the Spaniard’s regularity has promoted him to second place in the championship order.
Eric Camilli (6th, Ford/Michelin) bounced back from a differential problem on Day 1 to claim the first stage victory of his career on Sunday morning (SS15), while Kevin Abbring (Hyundai/Michelin) also scored his first WRC stage win after a tough start to the event.
The S4 (soft) and H4 (hard) versions of the Michelin LTX Force proved particularly efficient on the Mediterranean island’s sandy, stone-covered tests. The tyre’s versatility and strength allowed certain drivers to complete the weekend’s longest stage (Monte Lerno, 44.26km) on soft rubber despite the searing heat. The same tyre is nominated for Wales Rally GB at the back end of the season!
Michelin crews also dominated in WRC2 with the reinforced Latitude Cross H90 (hard) and S80 (soft). Finnish Skoda Fabia R5 privateer Teenu Suninen took the top prize, ahead of Skoda Motorsport’s Jan Kopecky. Two other Skoda/Michelin drivers, namely Esapekka Lappi and Umberto Scandola, both led briefly before retiring.