Rally Sardinia, saturday: Clean sweep for Tänak
Dani Sordo fought hard to end the leg in second
SS10: Ott on the attack
Ott Tänak produced a stunning drive in Saturday’s opening speed test at Rally Italia Sardegna to climb to second overall.
The Estonian won the 14.97km Coiluna - Loelle test by 6.5sec in his Toyota Yaris from overnight leader Dani Sordo. That was enough to demote Teemu Suninen, who was a further half second back, to third place and reduce Sordo’s advantage to 4.7sec.
Tänak’s option of Michelin’s mixed medium and hard compound tyres worked perfectly on the sandy roads. “Two years ago I used the same tyre package so I think everything will be OK. The next stages have always been very slippery in the past,” he explained.
Both Sordo, driving a Hyundai i20, and Suninen, at the wheel of a Ford Fiesta, chose hard tyres, with an eye on the harder surfaces expected in the next two tests.
“It was really slippery so with hard tyres there was no traction at all. It was difficult to manage the car,” said Sordo.
Fourth fastest time for Elfyn Evans was sufficient for the Welshman to move ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen into fourth place. The Fiesta driver was 0.3sec quicker than the Norwegian’s i20 to move ahead by two-tenths of a second.
Sébastien Ogier, who was due to start first in the order following yesterday’s retirement, deliberately incurred time penalties in a bid to find improved grip.
With no prospect of a good result after his crash, he checked in late at the stage start to benefit from cleaner roads, picking up a 70sec penalty for his troubles.
SS11-12: Tänak grabs Italy lead
Ott Tänak charged into the lead of Rally Italia Sardegna on Saturday morning with a remarkable clean sweep of speed test victories.
Having started the longest and toughest leg 11.2sec adrift of overnight leader Dani Sordo, the Toyota Yaris driver completed the morning’s three special stages with a 6.4sec advantage over the Spaniard.
After winning the opening test, the Estonian defeated Sordo by 2.1sec in the following Monti di Ala’. He saved the best until last by destroying the Hyundai i20 pilot by 9.0sec in the closing Monte Lerno stage - despite stalling his engine in a hairpin.
Tänak opted for a mix of Michelin’s medium and hard compound tyres and said: “It was definitely the right choice. We had to try hard and I knew we would benefit from our tyres in this first run through the stages.”
Sordo did little wrong. Using hard tyres, he was second fastest in all three stages but could do nothing to halt the Tänak juggernaut.
“We lost a lot of time spinning the wheels, it was so difficult. I didn’t drive very well because I couldn’t even control the car. It will be difficult with Ott but I’ll keep trying,” he said.
Teemu Suninen fell away from the battle to return to the Alghero service park 27.1sec off the lead. Nevertheless the Finn delivered a trio of third fastest times in his Ford Fiesta after a strategic approach.
“I was a bit careful with hard tyres in slippery places. We tried to manage this loop with just four tyres so now we have more to use in the rest of the rally,” he explained.
Elfyn Evans and Andreas Mikkelsen fought furiously for fourth. They traded places on every stage, Evans ending with a 2.6sec advantage in his Ford Fiesta after the Norwegian ran wide and clipped a wall at the finish of Monte Lerno.
Kris Meeke was 10.8sec back in sixth in another Yaris, ahead of a despondent Thierry Neuville. The Belgian was unhappy with his choice of hard tyres and added: “Something is wrong, I can’t drive the car and there is no confidence to push. We need to investigate.”
Esapekka Lappi was another to regret his choice of hard rubber. He was eighth in a Citroën C3 ahead of WRC 2 leader Kalle Rovanperä and WRC 2 frontrunner Pierre-Louis Loubet.
It was another disappointing morning for Sébastien Ogier. Returning after yesterday’s crash, the Frenchman hit another rock and broke his C3’s rear suspension arm. They made roadside repairs before limping through the final Monte Lerno stage.
After SS15: Clean sweep for Tänak
Ott Tänak produced perfection to win all six speed tests and take a commanding lead at Rally Italia Sardegna on Saturday night.
He finished the longest and toughest leg of the four-day Mediterranean island rally with a 25.9sec advantage in his Toyota Yaris over previous leader Dani Sordo. Teemu Suninen was a further 17.0sec behind in third in a Ford Fiesta.
Having overnighted in third, the Estonian took the lead in the last of this morning’s three tests, before extending his 6.4sec advantage to almost half a minute when the stages were repeated this afternoon.
Neither Sordo nor Suninen had any answer to his pace. Spaniard Sordo finished second in all three morning tests, while Suninen did likewise twice this afternoon.
Abrasive rocky tracks and high temperatures posed a fierce test for cars, drivers and tyres. Tänak’s morning mix of Michelin’s medium and hard compound rubber, followed by the durable hards this afternoon, paid dividends.
“To win all the stages is great, but my main priority is the rally win, stage wins make no difference,” he said. “It was a good fight today, Dani was pushing hard and did a really good job. I tried to be careful this afternoon because it was really rough in places.”
Sordo lost vital seconds this morning as his Hyundai i20, shod with hard tyres, suffered wheelspin. Suninen was delighted with his performance, blending pace with caution as he benefited from highly experienced co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen’s knowledge for the first time.
Elfyn Evans and Andreas Mikkelsen fought furiously for fourth. They swapped places in every morning test and the gap never exceeded 2.6sec until the final stage, when Mikkelsen lost time with badly worn tyres in his i20. Evans ended on top by 7.9sec in his Fiesta.
Both kept Kris Meeke at arm’s length until the Briton stopped to change a puncture on his Yaris in the final test. He dropped to eighth.
His time loss promoted Thierry Neuville into sixth, almost a minute adrift of team-mate Mikkelsen. The Belgian made a poor tyre choice this morning and struggled to find a rhythm in his i20, despite changing the set-up at the midpoint service.
Esapekka Lappi was seventh while behind Meeke, Juho Hänninen and Kalle Rovanperä completed the top 10.
It was another disappointing day for Sébastien Ogier. Returning after yesterday’s crash, the Frenchman again hit a rock and broke his C3’s rear suspension arm. He made roadside repairs before limping through the next stage and into the haven of the Alghero service.
Sunday’s final leg is the shortest of the weekend at 41.90km. Two identical loops of two stages culminate in the picture-postcard Wolf Power Stage along the west coast, which offers bonus points to the fastest five drivers.