FIRST WIN OF 2016: Belgian driver Thierry Neuville and compatriot co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul won the Rally Sardinia in their Hyundai i20 WRC. Image: AFP / Giuseppe Cacace
Alghero, Italy - Belgium's Thierry Neuville, behind the wheel of a Hyundai, held off Volkswagen duo Jari-Matti Latvala and triple world champion Sebastien Ogier to win the Rally of Sardinia on Sunday (June 12).
Neuville and his closest rivals avoided taking any unnecessary risks over Sunday's closing four special stages to get points on the world championship board led by Ogier.
First win of 2016
This was Neuville's second win after his debut WRC success in Germany two years ago. He posted the quickest times in stages 16 and 18 and came in 24sec clear of Latvala. Ogier was over a minute behind.
French driver Eric Camilli in a Ford was quickest in the 17th stage with Ogier ending a frustrating time in Sardinia by topping the times in the 19th and final special.
Neuville reflected on his change of fortune after an indifferent start to the season.
Neuville said: "Winning was the aim after two less than successful rallies in Argentina and Portugal.
"Here we knew that with our position on the road we had a good opportunity to make a go of things."
Latvala said he had accepted on Saturday (June 11) it was going to be tough making up the time on Neuville.
Latvala said: "He drove a really good rally, without any mistakes and deserves the win."
Ogier, whose chances of victory were hampered by having to 'sweep' the dirt and dust of the Sardinian roads as championship leader, leads the title standings on 137 points from his teammate Andreas Mikkelsen, who crashed out of the rally on Saturday, on 67 points, with Neuville's teammate Dani Sordo splitting the pair on 68 points.
Ogier said: "We've got a decent advantage in the standings.
"It's a significant cushion, 64 points."
The seventh leg of the WRC season starts in Poland on June 30.
Rally of Sardinia final standings:
1. Thierry Neuville-Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/Hyundai i20) 3hr 35min 25.8sec,
2. Jari-Matti Latvala-Mikka Anttila (FIN/VW Polo-R) at 24.8sec,
3. Sebastien Ogier-Julien Ingrassia (FRA/VW Polo-R) 1:37.8,
4. Dani Sordo-Marc Marti (ESP/Hyundai i20) 2:54.0,
5. Ott Tnak-Raigo Molder (EST/Ford Fiesta RS) 5:26.4,
6. Eric Camilli-Benjamin Veillas (FRA/Ford Fiesta RS) 5:59.8,
7. Henning Solberg-Ilka Minor (NOR-AUT/Ford Fiesta RS) 6:22.2,
8. Teemu Suninen-Mikko Markkula (FIN/Skoda Fabia R5) 8:57.4
Neuville 9 (SS4, SS5, SS7, SS8, SS9, SS13, SS15, SS16, SS18)
Latvala 3 (SS2, SS6, SS14), Ogier 3 (SS1, SS3, SS19)
Abbring 1 (SS10), Tnak 1 (SS11),
Ostberg 1 (SS12), Camilli 1 (SS17)
World championship standings:
1. Sebastien Ogier (FRA) 132 points
2. Dani Sordo (ESP) 68
3. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) 67
4. Mads Ostberg (NOR) 58
5. Hayden Paddon (NZL) 57
6. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) 56
7. Thierry Neuville (BEL) 48
8. Ott Tnak (EST) 26
9. Kris Meeke (GBR) 34
10. Eric Camilli (FRA) 22
11. Stephane Lefebvre (FRA) 10
1. Volkswagen Motorsport 178 points
2. Hyundai Motorsport 108
3. M-Sport (Ford) 90
4. Hyundai Motorsport 2, 76
5. VW Motorsport (2) 70
6. Dmack (Ford) 40
7. Jipocar (Ford) 18