Estonian Ford driver Ott Tänak, 29, won his first ever FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) event in Sardinia on Sunday, beating out Finland's Toyota driver Jari-Matti Latvala by 12.3 seconds.
SS16 (14.06km): New Zealand's Hayden Paddon (Hyundai) won the special stage following a crash on Saturday that cost him his lead in the event. Paddon led Finland's Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) by 0.9, Ireland's Craig Breen (Citroën) by 1.6 and Tänak by 6.4 seconds.
In the rally's overall standings, Tänak's lead over Latvala shrank to 18.8 seconds. Third place, Belgium's Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) lost to Tänak by 1.06.4.
SS17 (6.96km): Stage win went to Spain's Dani Sordo (Hyundai), who beat Neuville by 7.5 seconds. Tänak came in third with an 8.7-second loss to Sordo, while Latvala lost to the Spanish driver by 15.4 seconds.
Tänak edged out Latvala, who lost approximately five seconds with a stalled engine, by 25.5 seconds overall. Neuville came in third, 1.05.2 behind overall.
SS18 (14.06km): Finland's Esapekka Lappi (Toyota) won his first special stage, beating out Latvala by 1.5, France's Sebastien Ogier (Ford) by two and Tänak by 3.6 seconds.
Tänak remained in first place, with a lead of 23.4 seconds over Latvala and 1.19.2 over Neuville.
SS19 (6.96km): The power stage, in which additional points can be earned by the stage's fastest drivers, was won by Lappi, followed by Sordo (+0.4 points), Ogier (+1.3 points), Neuville (+1.9 points) and Latvala (+2.3 points). Tänak, who had secured the rally win, came in eighth place, 13.4 seconds behind Lappi.
Second Estonian to win WRC
The Rally Italia Sardegna win made Tänak just the second Estonian to win a WRC title, following Markko Märtin, the last of whose five championship wins was 13 years ago.
Tänak told ERR that the final day of the rally was hard on his vehicle, but he was able to come through cleanly.
"If I'm being honest, I suppose I was a bit nervous ahead of the final stage," he admitted. "It was made complicated by the fact that where we had to drive wasn't very much like a road anymore and that was hard on the car. We were able to get through cleanly, though — it was uncomfortable to drive, but crossing the finish line there was nothing special. My work was done."
Tänak confirmed that the win was a positive one for him, which may make it easier to move forward, however he was also sure that his next wins would not come any easier. "I suppose we'll see what the future holds, but definitely positive for now," he concluded.
Editor: Aili Vahtla