Rally star Ott Tänak is in first place in Rally Italia Sardegna going into day three at the venue where he bagged his maiden WRC back in 2017.
Thursday, the opening day of round five of the championship, brought a solitary speed test, with Tänak's teammate in the Hyundai i20, Belgian Thierry Neuville, fastest, 0.9 seconds ahead of the Estonian, after the fourth and final run. Finn Teemu Suninen (M-Sport Ford) was third and six-time world champion Sebastien Ogier (France, Toyota), fourth.
On Friday, Tänak won the first two test stages and was soon in the lead, ahead of another Finn, Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota). By lunchtime, Tänak's lead was commanding, with Rovanperä hit by mechanical issues, leaving Spanish driver Dani Sordo (Hyundai) and Ogier second and third behind the Estonian.
Tänak, 33, from Saaremaa, maintained form after lunch, winning stage five, though Sordo was fasted on stage six. Tänak was second and third fastest in the last two stages of the day, but retained the lead at the end of Fridy, with a total time of 1:26.58.0, ahead of Sordo +19.4 secs, Ogier +36.2 secs, Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota) +1 min 2 secs, Neuville +1 min 3.2 secs and Takamoto Katsuta of Japan, +1 min 26.1 secs in the Toyota Yaris.
Saturday sees eight more runs, with Sunday rounding the event of with the last four stages.
Tänak won his first ever WRC race in Sardinia in 2017 but subsequent performances have been less stellar, and he and co-driver Martin Järveoja have not made the podium there since, and, together with Hyundai boss Andrea Adamo, have stated a desire to fend off any sardonic laughter this time around. Last year's event, postponed to autumn due to COVID-19 restrictions, saw the pair beset with suspension issues.
Like Portugal last month, Rally Italia Sardegna contains plenty of gravel stages across the north of the Mediterranean island, while the course's total length is over 300 km. The rally park's location has been moved, but otherwise the race is largely unchanged from previous years, with plenty of boulders and vegetation lining the tracks.
Schedule (completed stages in italics, with stage winner's name):
Test Loiri Porto San Paolo 2.89 km 10.01 NEUVILLE
SS1 Filigosu - Sa Conchedda 1 22.29 km 9.02 TÄNAK
SS2 Terranova 1 14.36 km 10.02 TÄNAK
SS3 Filogosu - Sa Conchedda 2 22.29 km 11.47 TÄNAK
SS4 Terranova 2 14.36 km 12.47 TÄNAK
SS5 Tempio Pausania 1 12.08 km 15.47 TÄNAK
SS6 Erula - Tula 1 14.97 km 16.47 SORDO
SS7 Tempio Pausania 2 12.08 km 18.32 SORDO
SS8 Erula - Tula 2 14.97 km 19.32 NEUVILLE / SORDO
SS9 Coiluna - Loelle 1 15.00 km 9.08
SS10 Lerno - Monti di Ala 1 22.08 km 10.08
SS11 Coiluna - Loelle 2 15.00 km 11.38
SS12 Lerno - Monti di Ala 2 22.08 km 12.38
SS13 Bortigiadas - Aggius - Viddalba 1 14.70 km 16.10
SS14 Sedini - Castelsardo 1 13.03 km 17.08
SS15 Bortigiadas - Aggius - Viddalba 2 14.70 km 18.40
SS16 Sedini - Castelsardo 2 13.03 km 19.38
SS17 Arzachena - Braniatogghiu 1 15.25 km 8.33
SS18 Aglientu - Santa Teresa 1 7.79 km 9.38
SS19 Arzachena - Braniatogghiu 2 15.25 km 11.09
SS20 Aglientu - Santa Teresa 2 (PK) 7.79 km 13.18
Editor: Andrew Whyte