It’s almost 16 months since Alghero extended its traditional warm welcome to the WRC.
We begin our build-up to Rally Italia Sardegna (8 – 11 October) by casting our minds back to June 2019 and recalling our top five moments from a dramatic encounter.
1. Sordo’s success
It had been 2122 days. That’s five years and 296 days between Dani Sordo standing on the top step of the podium in Germany to celebrate his first WRC win and returning there in Italy.
The Spaniard was one of five drivers to lead in a typically hot and dusty opening leg. His 10.8sec advantage was wiped out on Saturday as his Hyundai i20 slipped the best part of half a minute behind a supreme Ott Tänak.
Tänak’s final day nightmare (see below) was Sordo’s dream as he claimed a second WRC success in 164 starts. A more popular winner you would have struggled to find. “I don’t have words to describe this,” he said, before making the traditional winner’s leap into Alghero harbour.
2. Tänak’s late agony
The Estonian was pure perfection on Saturday. He won all six rocky and abrasive speed tests on the longest and toughest leg in his Toyota Yaris and began the rally closing Wolf Power Stage with a half-minute advantage over Sordo.
Disaster struck shortly after the start. Damaged steering sent Tänak into a spin and he crawled to the end, losing two minutes and plunging to fifth. Head slumped over the steering wheel, Ott, too, didn’t have words to describe what had happened. It was a cruel finale to his 100th WRC start.
A third consecutive victory was lost amid the dust, but some consolation came in that he regained the series lead from Sébastien Ogier.
3. Latvala meltdown
Jari-Matti Latvala led after Friday morning’s action, but it went badly wrong when the Finn rolled his Yaris two-thirds of the way through the afternoon’s Tula test.
In sweltering heat, he and co-driver Miikka Anttila manhandled the car back onto four wheels before limping to the finish with a smashed windscreen. An exhausted Latvala slumped by the roadside before receiving medical treatment, after which he was given the all-clear to continue.
The windscreen was removed and remarkably they won the next stage, but retired after going off the road in the day’s final test.
4. Ogier title bid rocked
First in the start order is not the place to be on a dry and dusty opening leg in Sardinia – as Ogier was well aware. He was almost 30sec off the led in ninth before the morning’s closing Monte Barranta test after struggling for grip on the sandy gravel tracks.
That became irrelevant when 1km after the start he cut a left bend too tightly, clipping a roadside rock. It pitched his Citroën C3 onto two wheels and shattered the suspension. It was a bad mistake, especially as he had driven by the rock three times in the previous day’s shakedown.
Any chance of a good result was gone, but Ogier did pretty much the same thing in Monti di Ala’ the next morning. And all this after he swiped a gatepost in shakedown and broke – you guessed it – the suspension on Thursday morning.
5. Suninen’s best
Teemu Suninen enlisted Jarmo Lehtinen in the co-driver’s seat for the first time in search of greater experience and knowhow. Lehtinen’s return to M-Sport Ford, with whom he won the manufacturers’ world title in 2006 and 2007, reaped instant rewards for his fellow Finn who claimed a career-best second place in a Fiesta.