Belgium’s Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20 WRC) edged out champion, Sebastien Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC), on the final stage to win round seven of the World Rally Championship, Rally Italia Sardegna, by just seven-tenths of a second.
Finland’s Esapekka Lappi (Toyota Yaris WRC) took his first WRC podium. He was third. Waterford’s Craig Breen (Citroen C3 WRC) was sixth.
Neuville began the final day 3.9 seconds behind Ogier, but with three fastest stage times, whittled the margin down by 0.8 of a second. The final, 6.96km stage would decide the outcome.
Both were on maximum attack and Neuville won and also claimed five bonus points from the Power Stage.
At the finish of the penultimate stage, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia departed the stage finish without their time card.
It was later delivered to the M-Sport duo by Toyota’s Ott Tanak. Although the stewards removed the 22 points Ogier and Ingrassia gained from the rally and the 18 earned by their M-Sport Ford team, the penalty was suspended and will only be applied if the pair repeat the offence before the end of the season. They were also fined €10,000.
Breen suffered with his road position. Asked if sixth (a place behind teammate, Mads Ostberg) was the best he could have gotten, he responded, “Definitely not, I want to be a winner, I want to be in front. I know we all have the potential and all the right things are lined up. Just have patience, please.”
Elsewhere, in round three of the GT Open Championship, at Spa Francorchamps, Cork racer, Matt Griffin and his Italian team mate, Marco Cioci, racing with American team, Luzich Racing, had their best result — sixth — in Saturday’s race.
Qualifying 13th on the grid, Cioci drove the first-half of the one-hour, 45-minute race and pitted in eighth.
As a new car to series, they had to take a 15-second penalty at the pit stop. Griffin subsequently got out on the track in 16th, before working his way to fifth. He was then involved in a great battle to hold off the BMW of Fran Rueda, but, losing about seven 10ths of a second per lap to his rival (due to a turbo issue), Griffin was overtaken with about ten minutes remaining. Yesterday, Griffin/Cioci, were 11th, after Griffin’s Ferrari, which began in P10, was touched by a Lamborghini, spun, and dropped to 16th. The Cork driver handed over to Cioci in 11th, and that was their finishing position.
Ulsterman Daniel Harper took his maiden victory in the Porsche Carrera Cup GB series at Oulton Park, where Cork racer, Luca Allen, finished 12th in Saturday’s race and was 11th in both of yesterday’s British F4 races.
Elsewhere and as expected, Glengormley’s Derek McGarrity and his Donegal co-driver, Paddy Robinson, took their S14 Subaru WRC to a start-to-finish victory in the Modern Tyres Mourne Rally, which was round-three of the McGrady Insurance Northern Ireland Rally Championship. They were best throughout all eight stages and finished 1min 4.5 seconds ahead of the untroubled Escort of Damien Toner/Darragh Rafferty.
In the Acesigns Heartlands Rally in Portlaoise, late entry Cavan’s Jonathan Pringle took victory.
He finished 4.1secs ahead of 2017 winner, Kilkenny’s Enda O’Brien, also in an Escort. Alan Smyth (Mitsubishi) was third.
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