Tanak, a former Pirelli Star Driver, was quickest through the opening stage and stayed out front for the rest of the day, collecting fastest times on six of the day’s eight stages south of the rally’s base in Olbia.
His only concern today was whether he had damaged his car when it bounced off one of the enormous rocks lining the route in the Oristano area. By the end of the day he had carved out an advantage of 25.7 seconds from fellow Ford driver Martin Prokop.
“It’s been a tough day,” said Tanak. “I’ve never been here before, so I haven’t been pushing at the maximum. There are so many rocks everywhere, if you go a little bit off the line then they can catch you out and put you out of the rally. We have been careful. The car has worked really well, we’ve had no problems. I was worried after a big hit in the fourth stage, but the car was good. Today has not been the sort of day when you could make the attack.”
Prokop spent much of the day in second place, moving past Nasser Al-Attiyah who was second early on. Al-Attiyah is fourth at the end of day one after he caught Hermann Gassner in stage seven and then suffered a fire when a damper burst on his Fiesta in the day’s final stage.
Czech driver Prokop admitted his day hadn’t been entirely trouble-free. “I don’t know what it is,” he said. “Today has been really hard. All the time, the road is turning, turning, turning. I don’t feel I have made the best of today, maybe it’s me - maybe I’m getting old! With the number of corners coming all of the time, there has been no time to enjoy these stages today.”
The highlight of Prokop’s day was his quickest time on the Monte Grighini Sud test, reckoned to be one of the day’s toughest.
Finland’s Juho Hanninen holds third place at the end of day one in his Skoda. The Red Bull driver was subdued, however, after his Fabia had been blighted by brake problems for the duration of the day.
“There is no pedal at the end of the stage,” he said. “We have lost it. I had to slow down in the long stage. The day was not starting so well for us, either, when we had a right-front puncture near the end of a morning stage. I haven’t been fast enough today, we have to push again tomorrow.”
With fourth-placed Al-Attiyah more than three minutes behind, the fight for victory on this third round looks to be between the provisional podium sitters.
Bernardo Sousa (Ford Fiesta S2000) is fifth, with Hanninen’s Skoda team-mate Hermann Gassner sixth after spending much of the afternoon in front-wheel drive when a differential failed on his car.
Karl Kruuda, who topped the SWRC standings prior to the start, suffered more problems than most, after a puncture in the morning followed by his Skoda’s motor lapsing onto three cylinders for two stages.
“Not nice...” was about all the explanation needed from the 18-year-old Estonian.
Albert Llovera rolled his Abarth Grande Punto while Eyvind Brynildsen retired after his Fabia struck a rock on stage four.