The Italian island of Sardinia played host to Round 8 of the World Rally Championship from June 14th to June 16th, the high temperature, dusty & tricky road conditions would catch a few of the drivers out, some more notable than others.
The opening day of the rally threw up a few surprises and would also claim a very big scalp. Teemu Sunninen shocked his competitors by pacing the morning stages, though a spin would drop him into second behind a chasing Dani Sordo. Ott Tanak meanwhile gave chase in his Toyota along with team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala; Tanak struggling with the poor road conditions costing him time. Latvala came unstuck early in the afternoon as he rolled his Toyota Yaris on one of Saridinia’s many hairpin turns taking him out of the rally early on.
Andreas Mikkelsen & Elfyn Evans duked it out for fourth place and nipped at the heels of the third placed Tanak throughout the day. Thierry Neuville meanwhile was off the pace in his Hyundai, a combination of bad road position, exacerbated by the poor road conditions and the wrong tyre choices meant Neuville was in danger of dropping out of the top 10. Neuville meanwhile was pushing hard to make up time but a minor collision damaged the radiator on his Hyundai, costing him time he simply could not afford to lose.
Sebastien Ogier was chasing hard but found himself all the way down in ninth place, yet again due to the poor road conditions and partially due to the Citroen C3 not quite having the pace relative to the competition on the Sardinian gravel. Ogier however would push too hard and collided with a rock, destroying the suspension on his Citroen C3. The resultant damage was terminal and it was game over for Ogier who would return on Saturday under WRC2 rules.
At the end of Day 1 Dani Sordo held a slim lead over a chasing Teemu Sunninen with Ott Tanak, Elfyn Evans & Andreas Mikkelsen in hot pursuit.
Day 2 started in earnest. Sordo was struggling with his tyres and struggled with traction issues in the morning and was bleeding away time to the chasing pack. Sunninen was running well but didn’t make significant inroads on Sordo, enter Ott Tanak. The quietly spoken Estonian pulled the pin and exploded into action, making short work of Sunninen and Sordo as the day wore on, the Toyota working beautifully throughout the day which saw Tanak claim 6 stage wins.
Elfyn Evans & Andreas Mikkelsen were locked in mortal combat over fourth position, with no quarter being given by either party as they swapped positons on every stage throughout the day. Kris Meeke meanwhile picked up a puncture late in the day which slowed Evans, although Evans was credited with 7 seconds due to being caught in the choking dust from Meeke’s car, slowing him down. Thierry Neuville continued to struggle with tyre choice on his Hyundai and could not find a good rhythm, though he leapfrogged Kris Meeke following the Irishman’s puncture.
Sebastien Ogier returned on Saturday under WRC2 rules, but lady luck had other plans and promptly put the boot in as Ogier hit a rock for the second time. The result was the same as on Friday, broken rear suspension, though this time it was just the suspension arm it was another hammerblow to Ogier’s championship defence.
At the end of day 2, it was a familiar sight at the top with Ott Tanak leading, although Dani Sordo, Teemu Sunninen, Elfyn Evans & Andreas Mikkelsen rounding out theh top five.
The final day of the rally was also the shortest, leaving little time for Sunninen or Sordo to mount an attack on Ott Tanak. Andreas Mikkelsen had seemingly found the sweet spot in his Hyundai i20N as he went about winning both of the morning stages pulling clear of Elfyn Evans in his Ford Fiesta. Tanak with a reasonable margin to the chasing pack could afford to run a more conservative pace in the morning, saving his tyres for the final power stage to net himself more points.
As the cars lined up for the final powerstage, which would decide the rally winner and who would also score bonus points, something was amiss. Ott Tanak took the start but dropped a large gob of time as the steering on his Toyota developed problems, the steering locked on and unresponsive. Tanak eventually freed the steering but the damage was done and Tanak’s expected victory was snatched away. Andreas Mikkelsen took victory on the powerstage after a dominant display on Sunday, but it was Dani Sordo who took his second career victory on what was a rally that saw the main championship protagonists struggle and all come to some kind of grief.
The final results of Rally Sardinia look like this:
- Dani Sordo
- Teemu Sunninen
- Andreas Mikkelsen
- Elfyn Evans
- Ott Tanak
The Championship meanwhile is still very much between Ogier, Tanak & Neuville though thanks to Ogier’s disastrous rally Ott Tanak now takes the lead in the championship, the championship standings are thus:
- Ott Tanak – 150 points
- Sebastien Ogier – 146 points
- Thierry Neuville – 143 points
- Elfyn Evans – 78 points
- Teemu Sunninen – 62 points
The World Rally Championship now takes its traditional mid-season break before the action resumes on August 1st for the fastest, most spectacular event of all, the Rally of a Thousand Lakes, Rally Finland.