Tanak grabs shock WRC Rally Italy Sardinia victory after late Ogier puncture

Hyundai’s Ott Tanak claimed a shock WRC Rally Italy Sardinia victory on Sunday afternoon after late agony for long-time leader Sebastien Ogier.

Tanak (above) celebrated his first win since rejoining Hyundai for 2024 when a damaged tire in the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage denied Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Ogier a third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship victory.

Having traded blows with Tanak early in the ultra-rough gravel event, eight-time WRC champ Ogier had led since Saturday afternoon in his Toyota GR Yaris Rally1. The Frenchman, who’s running only a part-time WRC program this season, began the final 4.41-mile Sassari-Argenteria 2 stage with a seemingly comfortable 6.2s advantage, but ended 0.2s behind Tanak’s Hyundai i20 N Rally1 after disaster unfolded in the closing miles.

Sebastien Ogier looked set for a third consecutive WRC rally win until drama on the very last stage… Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool


The winning margin is the joint-closest in WRC history — matching the result of Rally Jordan in 2011. Back then, it was Ogier taking the victory, holding off his now-Toyota team boss Jari-Matti Latvala.

Tanak, whose last WRC win came in Chile last year with M-Sport Ford, was humble in victory. He faced similar heartbreak on the very same stage in his 2019 WRC title season, when a power steering issue cost him a certain win.

“For the emotion it’s good, but obviously I am very sorry for Seb,” said the Estonian. “To lose a win like this is cruel and I’ve been in exactly the same position myself a couple of years ago.”

Ott Tanak grabbed the top step of the podium on the final stage, beating Sebastien Ogier by a miniscule and record-equaling 0.2s margin. Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT photo

Dani Sordo made it two Hyundais in the top three, helping the Korean manufacturer to remain in the lead of the manufacturers’ championship by eight points over Toyota. The 41-year-old Spaniard was initially out of sorts on only his second WRC start of the season, but steadily climbed the order as drivers ahead of him suffered problems.

One of those drivers was his teammate, Thierry Neuville, whose podium bid went awry when he slid off the road on Saturday morning. The Belgian’s consolation was that, having restarted for the final leg — albeit well out of the overall top 10 — he claimed the maximum 12 points from Super Sunday to retain his WRC driver’s championship lead over Toyota’s Elfyn Evans.

Evans never really got to grips with his GR Yaris on the rough gravel roads, but although he ended almost three minutes back from the lead in fourth, the Welshman did succeed in reducing Neuville’s buffer from 24 to 16 points.

Toyota’s Elfyn Evans (above) endured a lackluster Rally Italy, but still closed the gap to Thierry Neuville in the WRC standings. Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Consistency rewarded Puma Rally1 youngster Gregoire Munster with a fifth-place finish. His M-Sport Ford teammate Adrien Fourmaux had run as high as third early on, but retired in Friday’s final stage with an electrical fault.

Such was the level of attrition that WRC2 machinery filled the remaining top-10 positions, with Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 driver Sami Pajari claiming sixth overall and the class win in international rallying’s second tier.

Pajari returned to the top step of the WRC2 podium for the first time since last year’s Rally Finland, catapulting from 11th to fourth in the overall class points.

The 22-year-old Finn had led WRC2 since putting on an early charge on Friday’s short, but rough opening leg and was able to play it safe during Sunday’s four stages to win by a comfortable 32.3s. He headed home WRC2 points leader Yohan Rossel’s Citroen C3, who’d fallen to 15th in class on Friday’s opening leg, but charged back to second with a string of consecutive stage wins. 

Jan Solans took the final WRC2 podium spot in another GR Yaris, heading home the Skoda Fabia RS machines of Martin Prokop and Kajetan Kajetanowicz that completed the class top five.  

Sami Pajari took his first WRC2 win since last year’s Rally Finland. It was the first win in the class for Toyota’s GR Yaris Rally2. Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Next time out, the speeds rise as the WRC heads to Rally Poland. The gravel event returns to the series for the first time since 2017, taking in the super-fast stages around Mikolajki, June 27-30.    

WRC Rally Italy Sardinia, final positions after Leg Three, SS16
1 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) 3h06m05.6s
2 Sebastien Ogier/Vincent Landais (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +0.2s
3 Dani Sordo/Candido Carrera (Hyundai i20 N Rally1) +2m25.8s
4 Elfyn Evans/Scott Martin (Toyota GR Yaris Rally1) +2m37.8s
5 Gregoire Munster/Louis Louka (Ford Puma Rally1) +6m42.9s
6 Sami Pajari/Enni Malkonen (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – WRC2 winner) +7m13.4s
7 Yohan Rossel/Benajmin Boulloud (Citroen C3 – WRC2) +7m45.7s
8 Jan Solans/Rodrigo Sanjuan (Toyota GR Yaris Rally2 – WRC2) +7m52.7s
9 Martin Prokop/Michal Ernst (Skoda Fabia RS – WRC2) +10m05.4s
10 Kajetan Kajetanowicz/Maciej Szczepaniak (Skoda Fabia RS – WRC2) +10m09.3s

WRC Drivers’ Championship after 6 rounds
Thierry Neuville 122 points 
2 Tanak 104
3 Evans 104
4 Ogier 92
5 Adrien Fourmaux 74

WRC Manufacturers’ Championship after 6 rounds
Hyundai Motorsport 269 points   
Toyota Gazoo Racing 256 
3 M-Sport Ford 131    

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Story originally appeared on Racer