Ott Tanak clinched back-to-back WRC victories in Germany on Sunday, which threatens to gatecrash the head-to-head title fight between Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier.
The Estonian, driving a Toyota Yaris, won ADAC Rallye Deutschland by 39.2sec, three weeks after success in Finland. It was his second consecutive win on Germany’s tricky asphalt roads after triumphing 12 months ago in a Ford Fiesta.
He dropped just one point here after a maximum haul in Finland, closing to within 36 points of FIA World Rally Championship leader Neuville and 13 adrift of Ogier after counting himself out of the battle two rallies ago. Four rounds remain.
The 30-year-old was coy about his chances. “I don’t know about a championship challenge but it’s great to win this specific event. This morning was very, very tough. Seb was pushing so hard and it was difficult to keep up with him,” he said.
Tänak was only headed for one stage on Friday morning and laid the platform for success with a crushing drive over zig-zag Mosel vineyard tracks. His task eased when Ogier stopped to change a damaged wheel yesterday and plunged down the order from second.
Neuville couldn’t match Tänak as he struggled with his i20’s handling. He inherited an unexpected second place when a fierce fight for the runners-up position between Jari-Matti Latvala and Dani Sordo ended in disaster for both drivers this morning.
Thierry Neuville maintained his WRC lead with second place. Photo: Hyundai
Latvala, holding a 0.8sec advantage over the Spaniard, retired his Yaris in the opening test with hydraulic problems while Sordo crashed his i20 into the vines. He limped through the stage but a water leak in the engine forced him out.
Neuville extended his championship lead to 23 points
Esapekka Lappi finished third in another Yaris, 60.9sec adrift of Neuville. It was the best sealed surface result of the Finn’s career.
Ogier’s dreams of a sixth title took a severe knock when he dropped to ninth yesterday. He threw caution to the wind and two stage victories in his Fiesta today promoted him to fourth. Allied to maximum Power Stage bonus points, he conceded only two points to Neuville.
Team-mate Teemu Suninen finished fifth on his asphalt debut in a World Rally Car after leapfrogging an out-of-sorts Andreas Mikkelsen, who struggled with the handling of his i20.
Craig Breen was seventh in a Citroën C3, ahead of Germany’s Marijan Griebel, who scored his maiden WRC points in the French manufacturer’s DS 3. WRC 2 winner Jan Kopecký and team-mate Kalle Rovanperä completed the leaderboard.
Big crowds watch Sebastien Ogier win the Power Stage on Sunday. Photo: M-Sport
Also retiring today was Mads Østberg who crashed his C3 in the opening stage.
Rally Turkey returns to the championship for the first time since 2010 next month. The gravel road encounter, round 10 of 13, is based in Marmaris on 13 - 16 September.
Outright final standings, ADAC Rallye Deutschland (provisional, Rd 9 of 13):
1 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3h03m36.9s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +39.2s
3 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1:00.9
4 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:34.5
5 Teemu Suninen/Mikko Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2:02.9
6 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2:13.8
7 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC) +2:39.1
FIA World Rally Championship for drivers (after Rd 9):
1 Thierry Neuville 172 points
2 Sébastien Ogier 149
3 Ott Tänak 136
4 Esapekka Lappi 88
5 Andreas Mikkelsen 65
6 Dani Sordo 60
7 Jari-Matti Latvala 55
8 Elfyn Evans 52
9 Mads Ostberg 48
10 Kris Meeke 43
FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers (after Rd 9):
1 Hyundai WRT 254 points
2 Toyota Gazoo Racing 241
3 M-Sport Ford WRT 224
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 159
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