Ott Tänak has won Rally Sardegna, after dominating from day three, Saturday, onward. The win is his first this season and his first for Hyundai since February 2021. Irishman Craig Breen was second for M-Sport Ford, Tänak's teammate Dani Sordo (Spain) came in third.
Tänak went into the weekend fourth in the overall table, after four races, but will have risen up the rankings on the back of this result – the WRC refreshed tables have not been announced at the time of writing.
The Estonian, 34, from Saaremaa, won Rally Italia Sardegna in 2017 for Ford, but has not triumphed on the narrow, twisty, sandy and bumpy mountain roads since then. Last year, the 2019 world champion went into day three in the lead, only to go out after falling foul of one of the many rocks which litter the circuit.
Tänak and his teammate Martin Järveoja came from sixth place in the Hyundai i20 after the opening day's two short stages on Thursday, to second by the end of Friday, and took the lead on Saturday morning.
After winning six out of eight stages Saturday, jointly sharing a seventh stage win with three other competitors, the pair won two of the four on the Sunday, to seal victory.
The top seven finishers were: 1. Tänak 3: 10.59.1 , 2. Breen +1.03.2, 3. Sordo +1.33.0, 4. Pierre-Louis Loubet (France, M-Sport Ford WRT), 5. Kalle Rovanperä (Finland, Toyota) +3.02.8, 6. Takamoto Katsuta (Japan, Toyota) +4.02, 6, 7. Gus Greensmith (England, M-Sport Ford) +5.23.6.
Tänak's teammate, Belgian Thierry Neuville, was outside the top 10.
"It has been very difficult, especially since the start of the new [hybrid] generation," Tänak said post-race, referring to new rules put in place ahead of the current season.
"We're definitely very happy, especially the mechanics - who have put in an incredible amount of effort all last year and this year."
"This rally was not easy, and they did a good job of getting the car going," Tänak, who has been plagued with mechanical issues in recent seasons, went on.
"We have made some great progress. In Portugal, we found ourselves in great difficulty, but we were able to improve things. When we have the confidence, we can do a good job. We just have to keep working for it."
Saturday, June 4
Tänak won the first test for Hyundai, the 12.03-km Tempio Pausania stage which started at 8.46 a.m., and started as he meant to continue, winning every subsequent stage except the third of the day, also run at Tempio Pausania and won by Irishman Craig Breen (M-Sport Ford), and also the final stage on Saturday evening, during which he was red-flagged and lost 11 seconds to to Finn Kalle Rovanperä.
The final stage, the 17.01-km Monte Lerno di Pattada 2, was in the event awarded as a four-way, Monte Lerno di Pattada 2, to Tänak, Breen, Sordo and Rovanperä.
Friday, June 3
Friday's first stage (of eight) started at 8.01 a.m. Friday.
Tänak was third after the first two, later moving up one place, while Lappi and Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota) traded places for the lead.
A hard landing during the morning (see video below) did not ultimately cost Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja significantly.
Tänak's teammate at Hyundai, Belgian Thierry Neuville, dropped more than a minute and a half due to technical problems, in the morning.
After lunch, Tänak won stage six and took overall lead, though transmission issues in stage seven slowed him, allowing Lappi to reclaim the lead, while the final two planned stages of the race were canceled, one due to a car having caught fire and which could not be removed in time, and the ninth and final stage as the WRC cars were not ready for a start in time following the previous cancellation.
Thursday, June 2
Tänak came sixth in the opening, short, 3.23km Olbia-Cabu Abbas evening stage, while his teammate at Hyundai, Thierry Neuville (Belgium) was fastest, and 1.3s ahead of the Estonian. Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) is second, followed by Welshman Elfyn Evans (Toyota), and two Finns, Kalle Rovanperä and Esapekka Lappi, both also with Toyota.
In Thursday morning's test, Tänak put in a time of 2.24.9 on the first test, but had to drop out temporarily after that after a minor engine fire, which he and his co-driver Martin Järveoja got under control, broke out in the Hyundai.
A second pass several hours later, while faster at 2.19.3, only placed him in 11th place ahead of Thursday evening's stage one proper.
Neuville (Belgium) put in the best test time, followed by Lappi and Evans (Wales).
Current championship leader Rovanperä came fifth.
UPDATE: After the 1st pass of SD @OttTanak and Martin were forced to stop on the road section due to a technical problem on the engine side. There was a small fire in the engine bay which the crew managed to stop. The car has been fixed and the crew is allowed to run again on SD.— hmsgofficial (@HMSGOfficial) June 2, 2022
Editor: Andrew Whyte