Italy WRC: Tanak holds comfortable lead from Sordo

Ott Tanak has opened up a comfortable lead over Hyundai teammate Dani Sordo after winning five of the eight stages on a brutal opening day at Rally Sardinia.

After dominating the morning loop, the Hyundai driver reeled off another series of impressive stage times, making the most of his favourable road position on the rough and slippery gravel roads.

The Estonian heads into Saturday with a 19.4s lead over teammate and two-time Sardinia winner Sordo, who with Hyundai teammate Thierry Neuville, prevented him from recording a clean sweep of stage wins.

Sordo’s triumph in Stage 6 allowed the Spaniard to regain second overall after briefly losing out to Toyota’s Sebastien Ogier. He then extended his advantage with a win on the next stage, leaving the reigning world champion only 36.2s adrift remarkably, despite having to sweep the roads.

"I think it's been a very good day for us. We can be happy with it,” said Ogier. “There was of course no chance to fight with Ott, but dominating Elfyn [Evans] and Thierry was of course really good for us."

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Drama struck Neuville on the penultimate stage as a right rear puncture cost him valuable time, handing fourth overall to Elfyn Evans, who has struggled to find the sweet spot in his Toyota.

Neuville did fight back in the final stage clawing back some much needed time as he shared the stage win with Sordo, as the pair set identical times.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC

Photo by: Austral / Hyundai Motorsport

"Unfortunately not our day. We struggled in the first two stages, but then we had a lot of trouble and two punctures without hitting anything and staying in the middle of the road,” said Neuville, who is 1.2s adrift of fourth placed Evans. "We could have probably closed in the gap to Ogier without the puncture, and a stall in the last stage now. Quite a lot of things we have to sort."

Tanak continued from where he left off in the morning as he claimed his fifth stage win in a row after taking out the first run through the slippery Tempio Pausania 1, (12.08km).

The 2019 world champion completed the pass 4.9s faster than Ogier, who jumped to second overall, after Sordo dropped 10.2s to rally leader Tanak and could only finish fifth fastest.

Neuville was among those frustrated by the loose surface but was only 5.7s shy of Tanak, while Evans was fourth quickest.

Tanak’s run of stage wins came to halt on Stage 6 Erula - Tula (14.97km) when Sordo came to the fore. The Spaniard managed to defeat Tanak by 1.8s and with Ogier dropping 7.3s, as Sordo regained second overall from the reigning world champion.

Neuville was lucky to only drop a couple of seconds when he nudged a gate on his way to fourth just 0.5s quicker than Evans who was improving, but was still struggling to lean on his Yaris.

"I couldn't rotate the car, and there was a small gate. I went into neutral and had to re-engage gear, I lost a few seconds. I felt like I did a good stage without the mistake,” said Neuville.

The Hyundai driver was not so lucky on the second run through Tempio Pausania as a right rear puncture, caused by hitting a bank meant he lost 18.7s to Evans. It handed fourth overall to the Welshman.

The top of the times belonged to the other two Hyundai drivers as Sordo notched up his second win of the day, beating Tanak by three tenths of a second.

Neuville responded to share the final stage honours with Sordo, despite stalling the car and suffering a second puncture. Tanak was 5.6s back in third ahead of Ogier and Evans, who was left frustrated.

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Elfyn Evans, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Photo by: McKlein / Motorsport Images

“We wanted more from the day. We're still here, but not as quickly as we would have liked to be here,” said Evans.

There was late trouble for seventh-placed M-Sport’s Gus Greensmith as a gearbox issue at the start forced the Briton to limp to the finish.

In WRC2, Mads Ostberg (Citroen) ended the day with a commanding 2m03s lead over Marco Bulacia, who lost 16s due to a spin in Stage 6.

One of the pre-event contenders Andreas Mikkelsen was forced to retire from the event after his Toksport Skoda sustained damage to the roll cage following his roll on Stage 4 this morning.

Rally Sardinia continues on Saturday with a further eight special stages beginning at 0708 BST.

Cla Driver/Codriver Car Total Time Gap Interval
1 Estonia Ott Tanak
Estonia Martin Jarveoja
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:26'58.000
2 Spain Dani Sordo
Borja Rozada
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:27'17.400 19.400 19.400
3 France Sébastien Ogier
France Julien Ingrassia
Toyota Yaris WRC 1:27'34.200 36.200 16.800
4 United Kingdom Elfyn Evans
United Kingdom Scott Martin
Toyota Yaris WRC 1:28'00.000 1'02.000 25.800
5 Belgium Thierry Neuville
Belgium Martijn Wydaeghe
Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC 1:28'01.200 1'03.200 1.200
6 Japan Takamoto Katsuta
United Kingdom Daniel Barritt
Toyota Yaris WRC 1:28'24.100 1'26.100 22.900
7 Norway Mads Ostberg
Norway Torstein Eriksen
Citroën C3 Rally2 1:30'39.700 3'41.700 2'15.600
8 Finland Jari Huttunen
Mikko Lukka
Hyundai i20 R5 1:31'06.700 4'08.700 27.000
9 France Yohan Rossel
Alexandre Coria
Citroën C3 Rally2 1:31'33.800 4'35.800 27.100
10 Spain Pepe Lopez
Diego Vallejo
Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo 1:31'50.100 4'52.100 16.300
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