WRC Rally Italy: Neuville claims first win of 2023

Rally Italy: Neuville claims first win of 2023

Thierry Neuville headed a Hyundai 1-2 at Rally Italy, claiming his first win of the season and the 18th of his career. Lappi finished in second with championship leader Kalle Rovanperä in third.

Neuville’s Sardinia victory served as a maiden 2023 triumph for both Neuville and his team, helping the Korean marque to move within 23 points of championship-leading manufacturer Toyota Gazoo Racing.

The lead changed hands a whopping nine times during the fast and furious Mediterranean island fixture until Neuville seized the initiative when rival Sébastien Ogier went off the road in Saturday’s rain-hit penultimate test.

He surpassed Lappi, who celebrated his third-consecutive top-three finish, in the same stage and managed a comfortable advantage through Sunday’s four-stage finale.

“Obviously it was a challenging weekend,” said Neuville, who now trails series leader Kalle Rovanperä by 25 points. “We came here with the belief that we could fight for victory, but the first day was challenging and we lost a bit of time. Yesterday we found ourselves in the lead and we had to manage it until the end.

“It’s the first victory for the team this year, it’s a 1-2 and the first win for our team principal [Cyril Abiteboul] as well. Craig Breen is in our memories also – we wanted the win in Croatia for him, but we got it now.”

Rovanperä completed the podium in third overall, his best result out of five Rally Italia Sardegna attempts.

Although he trailed fellow Finn Lappi by 1m 22.3s at the finish, the high rate of attrition saw him end a sizeable 3m 25.2s clear of fourth-placed Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans. Evans struggled to get into a rhythm in his GR Yaris and dropped around three minutes on Saturday when the car’s radiator sustained damage in a water crossing.

Sordo retires on final day, only four Rally1 car finish in top 10

Dani Sordo almost made it three Hyundais in the top five, but retired after the day’s second stage due to exhaust failure. It brought an early end to what been a turbulent weekend for the Spaniard, having previously rolled his i20 N on Friday morning. Sordo’s retired meant that only four Rally1 cars were in the top 10, meaning that from P5 onwards, all places in the top 10 were claimed by WRC2 driver in Rally2 machinery.

His demise paved the way for Andreas Mikkelsen to claim fifth overall as well as taking a surprise victory in WRC2. The Škoda Fabia driver had trailed Adrien Fourmaux by more than half a minute before the Wolf Power Stage, but the Frenchman slid off the road 1.4km into the finale.

The WRC season enters its second half with a hotly anticipated visit to Africa later this month. The legendary Safari Rally Kenya is based in Naivasha and takes place from 22–25 June.

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WRC Rally Italia Sardegna 2023 – Results

#DriversCarTime / Diff. to 1st
1.Neuville / WydaegheHyundai i20 N Rally13:40:01.4
2.Lappi / FermHyundai i20 N Rally1+33.0
3.Rovanperä / HalttunenToyota GR Yaris Rally1+1:55.3
4.Evans / MartinToyota GR Yaris Rally1+5:20.5
5.Mikkelsen / EriksenSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+9:33.3
6.Suninen / MarkkulaHyundai i20 N Rally2+11:48.9
7.Kajetanowicz / SzczepaniakSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+12:46.1
8.Rossel / DunandCitroën C3 Rally2+12:53.5
9.Marczyk / GospodarczykSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+15:33.8
10.Cais / TěšínskýSkoda Fabia RS Rally2+16:49.4

WRC 2023 Drivers’ Championship – Standings after Round 6/13 [Top 10]

1.Kalle Rovanperä118
2.Ott Tänak93
3.Sébastien Ogier85
4.Elfyn Evans83
5.Thierry Neuville70
6.Esapekka Lappi67
7.Dani Sordo36
8.Takamoto Katsuta23
9.Craig Breen19
10.Gus Greensmith16

WRC 2023 Manufacturers’ Championship – Standings after Round 6/13

1.Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT235
2.Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT212
3.M-Sport Ford WRT148

Photo, text: Red Bull Content Pool