The battle for both the drivers’ and manufacturers’ world championships have tightened up with Dani Sordo’s victory in Rally Italia Sardegna.
Sordo led Hyundai Motorsport team-mate Thierry Neuville to a one-two which saw the Korean marque turn a nine-point deficit into a seven-point lead over Toyota Gazoo Racing with two rounds remaining.
Sebastien Ogier finished third in his Yaris to snip the gap to Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans’ margin at the top of the standings from 18 points to 14.
As a part-timer in the third i20, Sordo started with road order advantage and, midway through the opening day, took a lead which he would not relinquish.
Ogier found more joy when the road order was reset for the Saturday and ended up vying for second with Neuville.
The six-time world champion held a 1.5s advantage over the Belgian at the start of the final day, and won the first stage of the morning.
Neuville took out the second before Ogier also claimed Sunday’s third stage, the second-last of the rally.
However, Neuville was 2.7s faster through the Power Stage and beat the Frenchman, third-fastest on that test, by exactly a second for the event in its totality.
Sordo won the rally by 5.1s overall and collected one Power Stage point.
More importantly for Hyundai’s drivers’ championship hopes, the only man to beat Neuville on that last stage was Ott Tanak.
The Estonian battled with suspension issues in his i20 on the Friday morning but the five bonus points helped bolster what would have been a meagre total for finishing the rally in sixth overall.
Nevertheless, Tanak’s deficit to Evans grew by a point to 28 after the Toyota driver finished fourth overall and grabbed two Power Stage points.
The 2019 champion also lost third spot in the standings to Neuville, but at least has two rounds to make up ground after the late addition of Monza to the calendar.
The next World Rally Championship round, however, is Ypres Rally Belgium on November 19-22.
Drivers’ championship Top 10
Highlights: Stages 13 to 14
Highlights: Power Stage