Red Bull Motorsports
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Dani Sordo takes his 2nd career WRC win at Rally Italia Sardegna
Hyundai's Dani Sordo claims a dramatic win ahead of Teemu Suninen at Rally Italia Sardegna, as long-time rally leader Ott Tänak dramatically loses out on victory in the final stage.
Toyota's Ott Tänak was cruelly denied his third WRC win in a row and his second career win at Rally Italia Sardegna on the final stage. The Estonian driver suffered power steering problems with just a few miles remaining, which caused him to lose a 26-second lead and hand the victory to Hyundai's Dani Sordo.
Championship leader Sébastien Ogier's hopes were dashed on the first full day the rally, as the French driver broke a steering arm on his Citroën on the final stage of Friday morning's loop.
Sordo took the lead in Sardinia midway through Friday's stages, ending the day 10 seconds ahead of Teemu Suninen and looking strong heading into Saturday's six stages.
Tänak quickly moved into second place following Saturday's opening Coiluna-Loelle Special Stage and set about reducing Sordo's lead. He won all three morning tests to wrestle the lead from the Huyndai driver. Not content with his rapid morning work, Tänak took a clean sweep of stage wins on Saturday to end the day 25 seconds ahead of Sordo, with Teemu Suninen in third and his M-Sport team-mate Elfyn Evans following in fourth, hounded by the Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen.
With the top three all but settled, all eyes were on Sunday's final Sassari-Argentiera power stage, as both Ogier and Thierry Neuville looked to claim maximum stage points and reduce the points gap to rally leader Tänak.
But then the unthinkable happened.
On the final stage, reports came through that Tänak had hit mechanical trouble and the Estonian driver had to wrestle his Toyota Yaris to the finish line with apparent power steering issues.
As a result, Tänak ended up slipping from first to fifth overall, handing the victory to Sordo, promoting Suninen to second and Mikkelsen to third, giving Hyundai a double podium in Italy.
Watch replays and highlights of WRC Rally Italy on Red Bull TV.
Sordo benefits from Tänak’s misfortune to win on the final stage
The final stage of Rally Italia Sardegna proved that drama is never far away in the WRC. With championship leader Sébastien Ogier suffering car damage on Friday, effectively ending his hopes of scoring decent points, the scene was set for Ott Tänak to take his third victory in a row.
The Estonian driver had emerged from an early battle with Hyundai's Dani Sordo to stretch out a comprehensive lead over the Spaniard and started Sunday's final stages with a cushion of 31 seconds. By the end of the day however, Tänak's certain victory would be a distant memory.
As Sordo and co-driver Carlos del Barrio awaited confirmation of second place at the end of the final stage, news emerged of problems with the steering on Tänak's Toyota Yaris and soon his 26 second lead evaporated, as he struggled to bring his car home in what would be fifth overall.
Sordo and del Barrio celebrated an unlikely win, leaving Tänak to rue what could have been, taking consolation in the fact that by salvaging fifth place he now leads the Drivers' Championship standings heading into the summer break.
Hyundai scores surprise double podium
Hyundai Motorsport experienced a rally full of surprises. Championship contender Thierry Neuville struggled for pace from the beginning of the event in his Hyundai i20 WRC, languishing in sixth and seventh. Instead, it was his part-time team-mate Dani Sordo who hit the front, ending Friday at the top of the rally, with the third Hyundai of Andreas Mikkelsen battling for fourth with M-Sport's Elfyn Evans.
Fast forward to Sunday and suddenly the stars aligned for Hyundai. Mikkelsen drove a blinding final power stage to win it and take fourth overall, which became third when rally leader Tänak hit problems and Sordo was promoted to the overall rally win. With Neuville scoring points in sixth and coming home third on the power stage, it wasn't a bad way for Hyundai to sign off in Sardinia.
Good points for M-Sport and a second podium for Suninen
Behind the drama of Tänak's late rally problems and Sordo’s last-gasp win, M-Sport enjoyed a fast and solid rally, with both cars coming home in strong points-scoring positions.
After a mixed bag of results so far in 2019, Teemu Suninen built on his fourth place last time out in Portugal and consistently ran third in his Ford Fiesta, starting the final day of the rally well ahead of team-mate Elfyn Evans in fourth.
Alongside highly experienced new co-driver Jarmo Lehtinen, Suninen's third place became second when Tänak slipped from first to fifth on the final stage, making this his best ever WRC result. Evans ended up fourth, but will be disappointed that he couldn't match the pace of eventual third place-finisher Mikkelsen to make it a double M-Sport podium.
Tänak takes championship lead from Ogier
With problems for both Ott Tänak and reigning champion Sébastien Ogier, plus a lacklustre performance from Thierry Neuville, it's safe to say that heading away from Sardinia and into the summer break ahead of Rally Finland, the championship battle is wide open.
With Ogier scoring just four power stage points in Italy, following a broken steering arm incurred early in the rally, Tänak looked to turn his dominant performance into maximum points and a healthy championship lead, before he also suffered mechanical problems and ended up fifth.
Despite this, Tänak leads the WRC standings by four points over Ogier, with Neuville just three points further back after coming home sixth and taking three points in Sunday's Power Stage. Just seven points separate the top three drivers.
With six rallies remaining, 2019 promises to be one of the most hotly contested WRC campaigns ever and it's all to play for in Finland in August.