Ogier beats Paddon to Rally Italy win
Sebastien Ogier claimed his fourth World Rally Championship win in six events in a bruising Rally Italy led for most of its distance by Hyundai's Hayden Paddon.
The revamped Sardinia route proved punishing, with Ogier the only World Rally Car runner to get through the entire weekend without some form of mechanical drama or driver error.
Paddon made the most of running late in the order on the very dusty roads to take the lead on Friday, though even Ogier had plenty of praise for the Kiwi's pace.
Even when Paddon's road position advantage over Ogier was less pronounced, Volkswagen's world champion was often only able to gain small amounts of time.
Ogier suspected the second run of the Saturday stages would be his best opportunity, and it proved easier than he expected as a quick spin by Paddon dropped the Hyundai to second before Ogier's charge had really begun.
Paddon then had a major scare when an impact with a rock caused transmission damage and left him struggling through the day's longest stages.
He managed to keep the time loss around two minutes and didn't even lose second place, such was the rate of attrition behind.
Mads Ostberg, regaining ground after a puzzling lack of pace on Friday, was poised to take second from Paddon before his second puncture of Saturday.
He was still on course for third for Citroen before a mistake on Sunday's first stage left him limping to the finish with a damaged car and dropping to fifth.
That meant two Hyundais completed the podium behind Ogier, as Thierry Neuville - who had twice needed to carry out improvisational roadside repairs following technical problems - backed up Paddon's runner-up spot with third place.
Elfyn Evans spent much of Friday in two-wheel drive mode thanks to transmission trouble, but persisted and was rewarded with fourth.
M-Sport should've had a podium, though - Ott Tanak was in a very comfortable third behind Ogier and Paddon mid-way through Saturday only to get stuck in gear and retire.
Suspension-breaking incidents on both Friday and Saturday wrecked Mikkelsen's weekend, but Latvala looked best-placed to chase down Paddon at one stage.
That was before three separate car-damaging incidents that combined to leave him eight minutes off the lead.
He still managed to finish in the top six, almost overhauling the devastated Ostberg on the powerstage.
Kris Meeke, Dani Sordo and Robert Kubica all had incidents on Friday that put them out of the hunt for points, while transmission troubles added to punctures put surprise opening-stage winner Martin Prokop out.
WRC2 came down to the final stage. Local hero Paolo Andreucci's lead was lost on Saturday afternoon when he had to stop to close his Peugeot's boot, but he fought back and caught Yuriy Protasov again.
They swapped places twice more before going into the powerstage just half a second apart, with Protasov managing to stay ahead and win the class, taking seventh overall too.
LEADING FINISHERS AFTER SS23:
LEADING POWERSTAGE TIMES: