Ott Tanak leads Rally Sardinia after day one following a dominant performance in his Hyundai i20 WRC, seeing him hold a 19.4 second lead from team-mate Dani Sordo. Tanak won the opening five stages of the day before Sordo hit back in the afternoon claiming a string of fastest times but not taking enough time overall to eat into the lead.
Sebastien Ogier lay third in his Toyota Yaris WRC and was pleased with his day’s work. By having two double loops morning and afternoon, the Frenchman’s morning wasn’t completely written off by road sweeping so he was able to make some ground back on the second running of each stage. Ogier was 35 seconds off the lead, but only 16 seconds off second place with two days to go.
Rally Portugal winner Elfyn Evans was fourth after a morning that he would rather forget, spending some of the day as low as seventh. Some tweaks at service helped Evans find some more pace and this combined some misfortune for others saw him rise up the leaderboard.
Thierry Neuville was the third and final Hyundai in fifth, the Belgium having a troublesome opening two stages before fighting back to be more on the pace for the rest of the day. Two punctures held him back, the second of which came on SS7 after hitting a bank which knocked the tyre off the rim and sent him tumbling down the order. A joint fastest time on SS8 will give a positive boost before day two.
Takamoto Katsuta was looking to just reach the end in Sardinia after having experienced how hard the island can bite in previous attempts. Lying in sixth overall he was the final WRC car in the top ten, just over twenty seconds behind Neuville. He stalled his Yaris three times throughout the day and blamed himself for these errors, so could have been much closer to fifth.
It was a disastrous day for M-Sport Ford as none of their entries finished the day. Teemu Suninen made the worst possible start to his WRC return by clipping a corner on SS1 and sliding wide after carrying too much speed. His Ford Fiesta WRC would get beached and while there was no significant damage, the Fiesta was stuck and he would be going no further.
Gus Greensmith had a tricky start to the day, but after a few set up tweaks was back posting times that he was happy with. Struggling with heat inside the car through the day, this was compounded at the start of the final stage of the day as upon launching into the stage the gearbox seemed to fail. At the time of writing it was unknown whether he would continue under Rally 2 regulations.
Pierre-Louis Loubet was just eager to get to the end of the event after a torrid run of luck on recent events, but his misfortune continued on SS7 as he had no brakes and lost over two and a half minutes. A further minute was lost on SS8 leaving Loubet over six minutes off the lead and out of the top ten. It was also another day to forget for Kalle Rovenpera, who looked to be bouncing back from a poor run of results but sadly the Finn suffered suspension failure on SS4 and had to retire for the day.
The rest of the top ten was made up from the front runners in the WRC2 and WRC3 support series with Mads Ostberg, Jari Huttunen, Yohan Rossel & Pep Lopez in seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.