Ott Tanak has finally delivered on the World Rally Championship stage with victory at Rally Italia Sardegna.
He became the first Estonian to win a WRC event since Markko Martin in 2004 and puts to bed the massive disappointment he endured at Rally Poland last year when a late puncture ruined what appeared a certain victory.
On the rough roads of Sardinia Tanak took the lead on Saturday afternoon after Kiwi Hayden Paddon crashed and from that point never looked back.
The Ford driver won by 12.3sec from Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala to score his first victory in 73 starts, to climb to third in the championship standings.
“All everyone has been asking me is how it feels, and I can confirm, it feels good! It was a really difficult weekend but we had a clever strategy and we stuck to it – and now it’s happy days!” said Tanak.
“The team have done the perfect job with the car and Martin has been mega. The whole first half of the season has been great. We have such a strong team – both inside the car and outside the car – and a strong team mate who is pushing me to do my best.
“Everything is coming together and we are improving all the time. We’re still a private team and you just have to look at the result from the year to see what an amazing job everyone is doing.
“This was an important step for us, and now that it’s job done, let’s see where we can go from here.”
Thierry Neuville completing the podium in a Hyundai i20, a further 55.4sec behind.
Esapekka Lappi won the final TV Power Stage to claim five bonus points in a Yaris. Dani Sordo took four points for second in an i20, while Sebastien Ogier secured three in another Fiesta. Neuville and Latvala took two and one point respectively.
Paddon’s event ended Sunday morning after another minor crash. After taking a stage win on Sunday’s opening stage, Paddon crashed his Hyundai in an incident similar to the one on Saturday.
“After Saturday’s misfortune, we wanted to use today to get back into a rhythm,” said Paddon.
“Things started out well with a stage win, but that was the extent of our positives from today.
“In the penultimate stage, we had another very strange incident on a ‘nothing’ corner, where like yesterday I clipped the inside, which sent us wide. I don’t know why this is happening. I am incredibly disappointed in myself and for the team.
“I want to learn from this but at the same time put it behind us and look ahead to Poland.”
Rally Poland is set down for 29 June-2 July.
VIDEO: Rally wrap
Final results – Rally Italia Sardegna
|1||Ott Tanak||M-Sport Ford||3:25:15.1|
|5||Sebastien Ogier||M-Sport Ford||+3:25.3|
|7||Mads Ostberg||M-Sport Ford||+6:31.8|
|1||Sebastien Ogier||M-Sport Ford||139|
|3||Ott Tanak||M-Sport Ford||108|
|6||Elfyn Evans||Dmack Ford||53|
|1||M-Sport World Rally Team||234|
|3||Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team||143|
|4||Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team||97|