Ogier's Sardinian Victory with Toyota

Reigning WRC champion Sébastien Ogier headed a Toyota 1-2 finish on Rally Italia Sardegna. The Mediterranean island's treacherous rock-strewn gravel roads provided the Frenchman's third win of the season - his 52nd career win - some 46.0sec clear of Elfyn Evans, thus extending his championship lead to 11 points after five of the 12 events.
As championship leader, it was reckoned that Ogier could not win this fifth round as he started first on Friday's opening leg, ploughing a line through loose gravel, which became progressively cleaner and offered more grip with the passage of each car. Against all predictions, the Frenchman ended the day just over half a minute adrift of Ott Tänak and Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Dani Sordo.
On Saturday in improved conditions, Ogier recorded a series of fastest times and when Tänak ripped a rear wheel from his i20 World Rally Car after hitting a rock, and Sordo rolled, Ogier eased through Sunday's finale.
Evans initially trailed by more than a minute after the first leg but set-up changes improved the Welshman's feeling with his car and a handful of stage wins propelled him up the order to increase Toyota's manufacturers' series lead over Hyundai to 49 points. There was a late scare however when his car spluttered to a halt after the same water splash that troubled Ogier and he was stationery for almost 20 nail-biting seconds before the engine restarted.
Third place for Thierry Neuville, a further 19.2sec behind, was poor consolation for Hyundai. The Belgian spent all weekend fine-tuning his i20's set-up but none of the changes delivered the pace to match the Toyota twins ahead. Such was the level of attrition that fourth-placed Takamoto Katsuta was the only other top-level driver to avoid retirement. The Japanese pilot matched his career-best finish from the previous round in Portugal.
Fifth went to WRC2 winner Jari Huttunen. The Finn relegated Mads Østberg when the Norwegian punctured on Sunday's second stage and held off a determined charge through the final two tests to end 7.5sec ahead.
WRC3 winner Yohan Rossel finished seventh with Pepe López and Jan Solans next up. Marco Bulacia completed the leaderboard despite a final day roll.
The championship reaches its midpoint with a return to Africa for the first time since 2002. The Safari Rally Kenya is based in Naivasha on 24 - 27 June.

6th June, 2021