An agonising mechanical failure for leader Ott Tanak gave Hyundai's Dani Sordo his second career victory at this year's Rally Italia.
While Ott Tanak (Toyota Gazoo Racing) had been riding one hell of a luck wave during his previous two outings (which he converted into deserving wins), this time, the wave seemed to hit him head-on as he missed out on a third consecutive victory despite heading into the final Wolf Power Stage (SS19) with a strong 26.7-second lead. Tanak had been leading the rally since Day 3, as he had won all stages of the day.
As it turns out, Tanak suffered severe steering issues in the final stage, sending him into a spin which obliterated his pace completely. As a result, he could only manage a fifth-place finish. Hyundai's Dani Sordo & Carlos Del Barrio, who were on the other end of Tanak's 26.7-second lead, scored a dramatic win with a 13.7-second lead over second-placed Teemu Suninen (M-Sport Ford). This was also a career-best classification for the Finn (Suninen). Meanwhile, Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT) outpaced everyone on the final day as he won all the stages of the day to clinch the final spot on the podium in the final driver standings. Mikkelsen, who was behind leader Tanak by 1 minute 15.3 seconds at the end of SS18, finished the rally 32.6 seconds behind Suninen.
Between Tanak and Mikkelsen, M-Sport Ford driver Elfyn Evans took the fourth spot, while championship contenders Thierry Neuville (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT) & Sebastien Ogier (Citroen Total WRT) suffered messed-up drives throughout the rally weekend. Ogier scuppered his chances of a rostrum finish in Rally Italia on the second day as he clipped a boulder and broke his steering arm. As he returned on the next day with no spares left, things quickly went sour for him as he ended up damaging his suspension once again. As a result, he could only secure four points in the final power stage.
Meanwhile, Neuville had his own share of misfortunes as a communication error with co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul resulted in a radiator-breaking spin, followed by a junction where he overshot the turn. All of this meant that he could only secure a sixth-place finish and three power stage points.
Despite a dreary end, Tanak's fifth-place finish did have a silver lining after all as he has managed to surpass Sebastien Ogier in the overall championship standings. While he was just two points behind Ogier after Rally Portugal, Tanak is now four points ahead of Ogier, with 150 points to his name. Further behind by three points, Neuville continues to be a threat to Tanak & Ogier as he holds on to his third place.