Rally d'Italia Sardegna
Tanak Scoops Maiden S-WRC Win In Sardinia
Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Ott Tänak enjoyed a near-perfect debut at Rally Italia Sardegna as the Estonian driver dominated the third round of the Super 2000 World Rally Championship (S-WRC) from start to finish.
Returning to the S-WRC after missing the previous round in Jordan, Martin Prokop took a second podium spot for the Fiesta S2000 with his third place finish this weekend. After two disappointing events, Nasser Al-Attiyah showed a return to form as he rounded off the top four in another Fiesta S2000.
The Ford Fiesta S2000 has now won the first three rounds of this year’s S-WRC and M-Sport’s new generation rally car now occupies the top two spots of the overall championship standings with Tänak and Prokop with 40 points each.
S-WRC position: 1
Overall position: 7
Estonian hot shot Ott Tänak chose to drop the previous S-WRC round in Jordan but had already made an impressive debut in Mexico where he finished third overall and took 15 championship points.
Tänak, a former Pirelli Star Driver, was quickest through the opening stage and stayed out front for the rest of the day, racking up six fastest stage times. By the end of the day he had carved out an advantage of 25.7 seconds from fellow Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Martin Prokop and was placed seventh overall.
A trouble-free morning followed for Markko Märtin’s protégé who racked up three-fastest stage times to lead the series by 53.3 seconds by Service D. Throughout Day 2, Tänak held onto his seventh place position and in front of eight World Rally Cars.
Sunday was trouble-free for Tänak as the young Estonian consolidated his rally lead with a polished performance, securing him 25 well-deserved championship points and promoting him to top of the S-WRC championship standings alongside Prokop.
Ott Tänak said:
“It’s been a tough rally but I’m very happy with this result. I’ve never been here before, so I haven’t been pushing to the maximum but everything just seems to have worked well. There were so many rocks on the stages, if you go a little bit off the line then they can catch you out. We have been careful but the car has been great - we’ve had no problems. I was worried after a big hit on the first day, but the car was fine. I’ve been lucky because I’ve not needed to push - I’ve just enjoyed being able to learn the car and not had to worry too much about pressure from behind.”
S-WRC position: 3
Overall position: 10
Despite Martin Prokop reporting the first day of Rally Italia Sardegna as one of the hardest in his career, the Czech driver spent most of the day in second place. The highlight of Prokop’s day was his quickest time on the Monte Grighini Sud test, reckoned by many as the day’s toughest. He was placed ninth overall at the end of the first day and 18.1 seconds clear of Hanninen who was placed second in S-WRC.
Prokop’s power steering pipe failed during Stage 10 and this dropped the Czech driver down to third in S-WRC, 38.6 seconds behind Hanninen. The pipe was repaired during the midday service and Saturday afternoon proved trouble-free for the former J-WRC champion who remained in third.
On Stage 17 Prokop’s Fiesta S2000 suffered exhaust problems and cost the Czech driver nearly two minutes. Fortunately, he was able to nurse his car through the closing stage to pull into the end of day service after a troubled rally with 15 championship points under his belt.
Martin Prokop said:
“This has been a really hard rally - all the time the road has been turning and it’s been exhausting. I don’t feel I have made the best line on the number of corners this weekend so there has been no time to enjoy many of the stages as I’ve needed to concentrate very hard. We have had a few problems but it’s good to make it to the end and with 15 points for the championship. Now I must look to Greece and hope that we can have a clean run and continue to remain at the top of the standings.”
S-WRC position: 4
Overall position: 11
Six-time MERC champion Nasser Al-Attiyah lost time on the opening day as he was caught in fellow S-WRC competitor Hermann Gassner’s dust in Stage 7 followed by difficulties with a damaged damper during the day’s final stage. With fourth-placed Al-Attiyah more than three minutes behind Tänak, it looked as if the Qatari driver was out of winning contention.
Saturday and Sunday caused no major problems for the reigning Dakar Rally champion and a relieved Al-Attiyah pulled into the final service happy to have secured 12 valuable points after an unlucky streak during the championship’s opening two rounds.
Nasser Al-Attiyah said:
“I was hoping for a win this weekend but it’s good to finish with 12 points for the championship – we desperately needed some points after the disappointment from Jordan and Mexico so this is a good result for us. The pace that I’ve seen from Tänak this weekend is very impressive and I think he’s definitely one to watch in the future.”
S-WRC position: 7
Overall position: 24
Frigyes Turán’s rally got off to an unfortunate start after suffering from a misfire whilst driving to Friday’s opening stage. This was then followed by a broken exhaust on Stage 2 which caused the disappointed Hungarian to retire for the day.
Turán returned on the second day under SupeRally regulations and had a clear run through the repeat loop of stages covering 143.06 km apart from minor power steering issues on Stage 17.
Sunday’s closing stages caused no problems for Turán who was using the stages to try and gain more experience in the Fiesta S2000 ahead of his next event in Greece
Frigyes Turán said:
“Apart from the incident on Friday, we’ve had a good rally. Obviously we were aiming to finish with more points than this to help us move up the leaderboard but we’ve learned a lot on this event which should help us for the future. It’s definitely been one of the hardest rallies I’ve contested, the road conditions and grip have been changing all the time so it’s difficult getting into a good rhythm.”
S-WRC position: DNF
Overall position: N/A
S-WRC Jordan Rally winner Bernardo Sousa was keen for another podium finish to consolidate his position in the standings. However, the tricky road conditions made the going difficult for the reigning Portuguese Rally Champion. At the end of the first day, he was placed fifth in the S-WRC, 15.1 seconds behind fellow Fiesta S2000 driver Nasser Al-Attiyah.
Sousa remained fifth throughout Saturday’s stages despite nursing a sore arm after he overshot a junction on Stage 10 and collided with a rock. At the end of Stage 14, Sousa was placed 16th overall.
On Stage 16 the driver’s rally was abruptly ended when his Fiesta S2000 failed to start due to an alternator issue. Despite this disappointing finish, the young Portuguese driver still holds fifth in the overall championship standings.
Bernardo Sousa said:
“What a tough weekend! I’m disappointed not to have made it to the end, especially after we decided to play it safe today and yesterday. Sardinia is definitely one of the hardest rallies on the calendar so I must not be too disappointed – it’s all part of the sport after all. We’ve still got five rounds left in the championship so there’s a long way to go so we just hope for a good position in Greece and to leave there with some points.”