Tänak wins Rally Italy by 0.2s after final stage drama

A puncture for Sébastien Ogier on the powerstage helped Tänak secure a dramatic Sardinia win


Ott Tänak dramatically scooped Rally Italy Sardinia victory, defeating Sébastien Ogier by 0.2 seconds after the eight-time world champion suffered a puncture on the very last stage.

Hyundai’s main contender for victory in Sardinia had been pushing hard on Sunday morning – but with the focus on beating his team-mate Thierry Neuville to maximum Sunday points, rather than to chase down Ogier for victory.

That push meant he caught Ogier anyway and by the start of the powerstage was only 6.6s adrift. Ogier then sustained a puncture a couple of miles from the finish line, ending his hopes of taking a third successive WRC win.

Several drivers had remarked how rough the Sassari powerstage had become on the second pass. Before the leading pair came through, Dani Sordo passed through the stage and stated ominously: “It’s not finished yet because it’s really bad and really hard on the car.”


A puncture on the powerstage denied Sébastien Ogier a record-breaking fifth win at Rally Italy

Sordo’s fortune-telling was entirely accurate; Ogier sustained a puncture and lost 6.8s, handing the win to his team-mate Tänak.

“Not much I can do,” rued Ogier at the finish line. “It’s not rally, it’s like cross-country, so not much I can do.”

Dani Sordo wrapped up his 56th career podium finish with third place, doing enough to keep Elfyn Evans at arm’s length while the Toyota driver had pushed on to try and add Sunday points to his championship account.

“Elfyn was making a good step; it was nice to see him back in the rhythm today, he was pushing,” said Sordo. “In this stage I just tried to preserve the car because [the stage] was completely destroyed.

Sordo also hinted that he wasn’t sure whether he’d be making any further appearances in the WRC, either this year or beyond.

“I don’t know if you will see me again. Let’s see,” said the three-time WRC event winner. “We’ll finish at the moment with the podium and this makes me happy.”

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Evans secured fourth place but ran out of stages to catch Sordo: “It’s been a tough weekend,” said Evans. “It’s clear it’s not the weekend we wanted. There’s a change of pace now anyway in the championship and hopefully we can find our form again.”

Despite Evans’ struggles the title race has closed up anyway thanks to Thierry Neuville crashing out of the rally on Saturday morning.

The championship leader returned on Sunday with the sole objective of taking maximum points. Despite being the first car on the road Neuville succeeded in his mission, aided by low-hanging dust compromising the cars following him on the first passes of Cala Flumini and Sassari early on Sunday morning.

“I’m not very proud of what happened yesterday,” said Neuville.

“I’m really sorry for the team because there’s a lot of effort put into it. Martijn and myself are also preparing hard for it and such small mistakes can ruin everything. I guess we did the job today but yesterday was not good.”

Neuville’s 12-point recovery means Evans gained only six points in the title race and is 18 points shy of the top spot, now tied with Tänak who finished second on the powerstage.

Grégoire Munster finished the rally in fifth place with an error-free run to the finish, his only gripe a throttle position sensor issue on Sunday morning.

After his Saturday retirement from a transmission failure, Katsuta turned his attention to Sunday points. But Toyota’s third driver struggled with road sweeping, taking three points for Sunday: “I was trying to push a lot and [went] two times off the road, so no chance,” he said.

It was a similar story for Friday retiree Adrien Fourmaux. M-Sport’s team leader had suffered an alternator failure on the first day and was happy with his pace on Saturday’s medium and high-speed stages – but failed to make an impression on the final day.

“We’re definitely struggling a bit today with the car on the slow sections,” said Fourmaux, who ended the rally with three points from his Sunday efforts. “It’s a little bit too lazy, we need to improve it.”

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Sami Pajari wrapped up his first WRC2 win of the season, leading the rally for all but one stage.

Sardinia was Pajari’s third points-nominated round of the season; the Printsport driver had finished second in Sweden but had a disastrous round at the previous round in Portugal, where he clipped a concrete block on the opening superspecial and ruined his hopes of a good result.

“I was hoping for a rally good result after the disappointment in Portugal,” said Pajari. I knew myself that the pace is there, we just needed to put it together.”

Yohan Rossel signed off an epic comeback drive with second place, successfully holding off a late charge from Portugal winner Jan Solans.

A puncture on Friday had cost the Citroën driver almost two minutes and dropped him to 18th place but a clean sweep of Saturday stage wins got him back to the podium places.

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Pajari took his first WRC2 win of the season in Sardinia, and the second in a row for the Yaris Rally2

Solans hit back on Sunday morning and closed the gap to only 3.8s with one stage to go – but in the process ripped bodywork off the left-hand side of his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1 when he ran wide and clipped some fencing exiting one of the final turns on the Cala Flumini test.

Ultimately a rear puncture on the powerstage ended Solans’ hopes of stealing second at the finish, settling for third: “I’m happy with the rally I’ve done; very intelligent, staying on the road all the time,” said Solans. “Today when we needed it we pushed like hell. Yohan was very fast and we haven’t been able to fight with him. Maybe we pushed a bit too hard on the last one.”

Martin Prokop successfully defended the fourth position he’d taken from Kajetan Kajetanowicz on Sunday morning, besting the reigning WRC2 Challenger champion by 3.9s.