Ott Tanak led a new-look World Rally Championship podium in Italy, comfortably taking victory in Rally Italia Sardegna.
In doing so, the Hyundai Motorsport driver ended a victory drought spanning over one year, winning for the first since Rally Finland in 2021.
Tanak finished 1m 3.2s clear of M-Sport Ford’s Craig Breen, while Dani Sordo rounded out a podium that was lacking the usual suspects.
From the start, it was clear that Tanak would be a contender in his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 machine.
The Estonian fought for the lead with GR Yaris driver Esapekka Lappi on Friday, ending the day just 0.7s off the pace.
Tanak would emerge the clear leader after Saturday though, as Lappi was knocked out of the running just 10.4km into the opening stage after his car sustained heavy left rear damage.
Lappi’s loss was Tanak’s gain, as he went on to win six of Saturday’s seven stages, building an almost insurmountable margin which made the final four stages a victory lap.
“It’s been very challenging, especially since the beginning of this [hybrid] generation,” Tanak said.
“We are definitely very happy, especially for the mechanics – they put in an incredible effort all of last year and the beginning of this year. This rally was not easy and they made a good job to keep the car going.
“We have made some good steps. In Portugal, we were really struggling and actually we managed to improve. No doubt, if the confidence is there then we can do a good job. We just need to keep working.”
Breen’s journey to second started with a hiccup, the Irishman experiencing a spin on Friday.
He made his way up the order on Saturday, before securing the runner-up spot in gutsy fashion.
Sordo was 29.8s off in third. The Hyundai driver was steady throughout the event gaining pace as it went on.
Pierre-Louis Loubet scored a career-best result of fourth overall, overcoming a puncture to beat championship leader Kalle Rovanpera who finished 53.4s behind.
Rovanpera was the highest ranked Toyota steerer in a disappointing rally for the team.
Despite a sub-par result in Italy, the Finn still tops the standings by 55 points.
Takamoto Katsuta was sixth and Gus Greensmith was seventh in his Ford Puma.
Championship contender Thierry Neuville had to settle for five Power Stage points.
Elfyn Evans was way off the pace after retiring on both Friday and Saturday.
All the World Rally Championship action can be seen live and on-demand on Stan Sport.
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