Tanak scores first WRC win
ESTONIAN driver Ott Tänak scored a long-awaited first win in the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of a gruelling Rally Italia Sardegna.
After 73 WRC starts, Tänak drove his M-Sport Ford Fiesta across the finish line in the coastal town of Alghero 12.3 seconds ahead of Toyota's Jari-Matti Latvala.
Thierry Neuville was a further 55.4sec back in a Hyundai i20, closing the gap on championship leader Sébastien Ogier to 18 points.
Tänak's victory after a four-day, 312 kilometre test in scorching conditions was a popular one.
Almost a year ago, the 29-year-old threw away a certain win in Rally Poland with a last-minute mistake. Distraught, he was consoled by World Champion Sébastien Ogier, who was one of the first to congratulate him on Sunday before he celebrated with a traditional dive into Alghero harbour.
The fifth different winner from seven rounds so far in the most unpredictable season in many years, Tänak lifted himself to third in the driver championship standings, while Neuville edged closer to leader Ogier.
Tänak's success was sealed despite a late scare when a hole allowed his car to fill with dust. His visibility obscured, Tänak overshot a junction on Sunday's opening stage and slithered into bushes.
It offered a glimmer of hope to Latvala, who was chasing down a 23.3sec deficit, but when the Finn stalled his engine in the next special stage, he conceded defeat. Tänak measured his pace through the final three tests to score an emotional win.
"It was a difficult weekend, but the first half of this season has been great," he said.
"The new car and a strong teammate (Ogier) is making me push hard. I hope it's the first of many wins because it's all coming together now."
RALLY ITALIA SARDEGNA
1. O. Tanak (Ford Fiesta WRC)3:25:15.1
2. J.M. Latvala (Toyota Yaris WRC)+12.3sec
3. T. Neuville (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC)+1:07.7
4. E. Lappi (Toyota Yaris WRC)+2:12.9
5. S. Ogier (Ford Fiesta WRC)+3:25.3
Championship for drivers (round 7 of 13):
141 Sébastien Ogier
123 Thierry Neuville
108 Ott Tänak
107 Jari-Matti Latvala