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WRC Rally Italy

Tanak refusing to think about drought-ending WRC Sardinia win

Ott Tanak is refusing to think about a possible drought ending World Rally Championship victory at Rally Sardinia, despite holding a commanding lead after dominating Saturday’s stages.

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

The Hyundai driver will head into Sunday’s four stages with a 46.0s lead over M-Sport’s Craig Breen after winning six of the day’s eight stages.

Tanak started the day 0.7s behind Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi but was handed the lead when Lappi crashed out on Stage 10.

Saturday’s run of stage wins was made all the more impressive as the Estonian had to fight against an engine issue, which appeared to be affected by Sardinia’s hot temperatures.

The 2019 world champion admitted he couldn’t remember the last time he’d delivered a similar performance having been plagued by a run of misfortune and reliability issues, stretching back to last season.

Tanak last visited the top step of the podium in February 2021, when he stormed to victory at Arctic Rally Finland.

Despite a healthy margin, Tanak is aware that the victory can be easily lost given Hyundai’s recent reliability struggles.

“We have been in this position before and it [the win] can still go,” said Tanak. “The finish line is not crossed, so let’s say better not think about it.”

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Romain Thuillier / Hyundai Motorsport

Reflecting on his own performance, he added: “It has been quite a long time since we had a good run like that and I can’t remember the last time to be honest.

“In the car I had quite a good feeling although when it was getting really hot in the car it was a bit more challenging. But even the roads the were keeping well this afternoon, it was quite enjoyable to drive.

“At the first stage this morning when Esapekka was still in the fight we gave it quite a big push so we wanted to start well, but after that I would say step by step we were slowing down and the times kept coming. If you are in the mood then that is how it should be.”

Hyundai heads into Sunday on the verge of a double podium with Dani Sordo occupying third, 1m06.8s adrift of Tanak.

Neuville set to return to action after roll

Meanwhile, Tanak’s team-mate Thierry Neuville is set return to action on Sunday after the Belgian rolled his i20 N on Stage 12.

Neuville had already been playing catch up after losing almost two minutes on Friday when a transmission issue limited his i20 N to two wheel drive.

Charging to make up ground on his rivals, Neuville clipped a rock face and rolled his i20 N, resulting in retirement.

However, Neuville is set to rejoin the rally in a bid to salvage championship points on the rally ending power stage.

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Thierry Neuville, Martijn Wydaeghe, Hyundai World Rally Team Hyundai i20 N Rally1

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

“It was bit of a different incident this time,” said Neuville.

“We had one single goal this morning, to go as fast as we can and try to push hard to catch some time back on Kalle Rovanpera and some other drivers in front of us. The gap this morning was a minute to the closest car in front of us, so we knew it would be a challenge to catch anyone.

“We had to try and we saw some interesting times in the two first stages. We kept believing but I just got caught out on a slow right hander and I climbed the mountains a bit and rolled the rally car.

“There is no concern [on the engine]. We should be back tomorrow and we shall go for the power stage, and see if we can take maximum points.”

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