Andrea Crugnola has won Rally Sanremo ahead of Craig Breen after a 10-second penalty for checking in late to a time control cost Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle their second Sanremo victory in three years.
Breen had beaten Crugnola by 4.8s on the road but his penalty dropped him to 5.2s behind at the finish.
Hyundai had a strong presence in Sanremo in preparation for the next round of the World Rally Championship: Rally Croatia.
Breen and Oliver Solberg both took on the Italian regulars in a pair of i20 R5s while Thierry Neuville, Ott Tänak and Pierre-Louis Loubet each drove an i20 Coupe WRC on a standalone, shorter ‘WRC’ event.
That event was won by Neuville after a final-stage shootout between him and Tänak which was settled in the Belgian’s favor.
Tänak was quickest out of the blocks on the first stage but a 10s penalty for jumping the start put him on the back foot against his team-mate. Then a late check in to a time control for Neuville neutralized this as Neuville was docked the same 10s, and trailed Tänak by 1.7s.
Tänak stretched his advantage on stages four and five before being overhauled on SS6 with Neuville eventually getting the better of the 2019 World Rally Champion by 3.9s. Loubet was third in his 2C Competition Hyundai, 1m15s shy of Neuville’s rally-winning time.
In the main event, Breen led after the short opening stage on Saturday afternoon but was soon overhauled by Fabio Andolfi’s Škoda and Andrea Crugnola’s Hyundai on Sunday morning’s opener.
Giandomenico Basso and Solberg had both edged Breen on the test too as the Irishman slipped to third with Solberg climbing from 13th overnight to sixth.
However, Solberg’s rally was run after the very next stage when he ran wide, clipped something with the rear-left of his i20 R5 and lost a wheel in the process.
Breen was quickest on SS3 Colle d’Oggia which claimed Solberg but found himself back in fourth overall at first service with Andolfi leading Crugnola by a slender 0.5s.
But Breen and co-driver Paul Nagle would make a decisive move on the afternoon loop. Third-fastest on SS5 and quickest on SS6, the pair assumed the lead of the rally by 1.5s over Crugnola with Andolfi back to third and Basso slipping all the way down to sixth as his Fabia punctured, setting just the 51st quickest time on the stage.
A poor time for Crugnola on the event’s penultimate test then allowed Breen’s lead to swell to 11.5s and he took it easy on the final test to record a winning margin of 4.8s.
Crugnola did all he could, setting the equal-fastest time with Basso on the final test to claim what he thought was second spot. But Breen’s penalty gifted him the victory with Andolfi eight seconds behind Crungola and 2.8s adrift of Breen.
Stefano Albertini – who was Neuville’s closest rival on the Ciocco Rally in March – finished fourth, 10.1s away from the podium with Basso mugging Simone Campedelli for fifth on the very last stage. Basso, despite winning half of the rally’s eight stages, was 32.4s down on the rally leader at the end and 0.5s ahead of Campedelli’s Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Former Citroën WRC driver Stéphane Lefebvre started the final stage 10th but a superb time launched him up to seventh at the finish at the expense of Rudy Michelini, Damanio De Tomasso and Tomasso Ciuffi.
Rudy Michelini headed into the final stage eighth and finished it seventh, overhauling both Damiano De Tomasso and Tomasso Ciuffi in the process.
Toksport WRC2 driver Marco Bulacia came home 12th in his Fabia Rally2 evo, two spots ahead of Thierry Neuville’s old co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul who navigated Paul-Antoine Santoni to 14th place on his first rally of 2021.
Junior WRC champion Tom Kristensson was giving the Ford Fiesta Rally3 its first-ever asphalt rally start on Sanremo but things didn’t go to plan when he retired on SS5.
“Unfortunately I was out in a corner and touching a small stone, my own mistake,” he said afterwards.
“Really sad that we couldn’t continue the rally and show the potential of this fantastic Rally3 car.”
The Swede had been 28th overall among a field of 45 Rally2 cars before his minor incident.
Final positions after SS8
1 Andrew Crugnola/Pietro Elia Ometto (Hyundai) 58m30.4s
2 Craig Breen/Paul Nagle (Hyundai) +5.2s
3 Fabio Andolfi/Stefano Savoia (Škoda) +8.0s
4 Stefano Albertini/Danilo Fappani (Škoda) +18.1s
5 Giandomenico Basso/Lorenzo Granai (Škoda) +32.4s
6 Simone Campedelli/Tania Canton (Volkswagen) +32.9s
7 Stéphane Lefebvre/Andy Malfoy (Citroën)+1m17.7s
8 Rudy Michelini/Michele Perna (Škoda)+1m24.9s
9 Damiano De Tommaso/Massimo Bizzocchi (Citroën) +1m25.9s
10 Tommaso Ciuffi/Nicolò Gonella (Škoda) +1m30.1s
Final WRC positions after SS7
1 Thierry Neuville/MartijnWydaeghe (Hyundai) 55m22.1s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Hyundai) +3.9s
3 Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (Hyundai) +1m15.0s
4 Pedro/Emanuele Baldaccini (Hyundai) +5m26.2s