Cagliari, Italy - World champion Sebastien Ogier in a Volkswagen Polo has won the Rally of Italy for the second consecutive year to extend his lead in this season's championship.
Ogier finished the sixth leg of the World Rally Championship 1m23.1 clear of Norway's Mads Ostberg in a Citroen and 1m32 ahead of team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala.
The Finn lost time when he was forced to change a rear wheel after hitting a rock at the side of the road.
It was Ogier's 20th overall victory on the rally circuit and his fourth this season, having already secured victories in Monaco, Mexico and Portugal.
“I had a very tough beginning on this rally,” Ogier said, “and had to put pressure on Jari yesterday. Luckily that paid off and this is a really good feeling.”
Ogier now heads the Drivers' standings with a 33-point lead over Latvala mid-way through the season.
The reigning world champion won three of Saturday's four stages to propel himself to the top of the timesheet ahead of Sunday's four concluding specials.
Ogier's championship points were boosted by finishing third in the 8.98km Power Stage, SS17, which was won by Norway's Andreas Mikkelsen.
Ogier said afterwards: “I could let up a bit on Sunday, having built up a 1m40s lead on Ostberg.
“The number one aim of the season is to hold our title. There are seven rallies to go and I have to give it everything to beat Jari-Matti who is currently in great form.”
The next rally will be held in Poland from 27-29 June. - AFP
1 Sebastien Ogier (France) Volkswagen - 4h02m37.8
2 Mads Ostberg (Norway) Citroen +1:23.1
3 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Volkswagen +1:32.8
4 Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) Volkswagen +2:39.3
5 Elfyn Evans (Britain) Ford +4:41.8
6 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) Ford +6:05.3
7 Henning Solberg (Norway) Ford +7:15.8
8 Robert Kubica (Poland) Ford +12:19.0
9 Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy) Ford +15:22.1
10 Khalid Al Qassimi (United Arab Emirates) Citroen +16:49.3
1 Sebastien Ogier (France) - 138
2 Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) - 105
3 Mads Ostberg (Norway) - 66
4 Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) - 63
5 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) - 40
6 Elfyn Evans (Britain) - 36
7 Kris Meeke (Britain) - 32
8 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) - 31
9 Martin Prokop (Czech Republic) - 30
10 Henning Solberg (Norway) - 22
11 Bryan Bouffier (France) - 18
12 Robert Kubica (Poland) - 12
13 Ott Taenak (Estonia) - 10
14 Benito Guerra (Mexico) - 8
15 Chris Atkinson (Australia) - 6
16 Pontus Tidemand (Sweden) - 4
17 Jaroslav Melicharek (Slovakia) - 4
18 Juho Haenninen (Finland) - 4
19 Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) - 3
20 Lorenzo Bertelli (Italy) - 2
21 Matteo Gamba (Italy) - 2
22 Craig Breen (Ireland) - 2
23 Yuriy Protasov (Ukraine) - 2
24 Jari Ketomaa (Finland) - 1
25 Khalid Al Qassimi (United Arab Emirates) - 1