Tanak breaks drought with WRC Italy win

Ott Tanak claimed his first WRC win of 2022 in Italy. Picture: Romain Thuillier

Ott Tanak has ended a dry spell in the FIA World Rally Championship, winning Rally Italia Sardegna in dominant fashion for Hyundai.

The Estonian headed home Ireland’s Craig Breen by a little over one minute while Tanak’s stable-mate Dani Sordo of Spain bookended the podium for the Korean manufacturer, a further 29.8s back.

In winning Rally Italia Sardegna, the 34-year-old ended a 13-rally dry spell dating back to Rally Finland last year.

“I am very happy to take this victory, especially for all the mechanics and people in the team who have put in an incredible effort to prepare for this new generation,” said Tanak.

“It’s been a challenging time, but we have shown that hard work pays off.

“This has not been an easy rally, so the team has done a good job to keep the car going.

“We have made some steps since Portugal; we’ve improved the car performance and our feeling with it.

“There’s no doubt that when we have the confidence, we can do a good job.

“We need to keep working in this direction.”

Tanak and Toyota driver Esappeka Lappi traded the lead on the opening day of the rally, the latter leading proceedings by a mere 0.7s over the eventual event winner after SS7.

The first full day of competition saw one high profile exit, that being Ford’s Elfyn Evans, who suffered radiator damage and retired shortly after SS3.

The #8 Hyundai i20 pilot seized the lead back on the first stage of Saturday morning, SS10, after Lappi crashed his #4 Toyota Yaris.

Indeed, Tanak would never relinquish the lead from thereon. His nearest rival after Lappi’s exit would be that of Breen in the #42 Ford Puma.

Having ended Saturday with a 46-second lead over Breen, Tanak would widen that gap in Sunday’s final four stages to one minute and three seconds.

Breen was buoyed by his result, marking his first time on the podium since the season-opener, Rallye Monte Carlo, where he was third.

“Obviously it’s been a great weekend, really happy with how everything went,” said Breen.

“It was important that we got a good result here after a couple of difficult rallies.

“So we’re definitely feeling better, and looking forward to Kenya now, having this good result in the bag should give us a bit more confidence.”

Part-timer Sordo continued a string of podium finishes, racking up his fourth straight success dating back to his home event last year in Spain, Rally Catalunya.

Kalle Rovanpera, who finished fifth behind Ford part-timer Pierre-Louis Loubet, still leads the FIA World Rally Championship for Toyota.

The Finn has 120 points to his name over Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville. The Belgian driver has 65 points to his name just ahead of Tanak on 62.

The championship’s next event, Safari Rally Kenya, takes place on June 23-26.

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