Ott Tanak scored his second consecutive World Rally Championship victory with a dominant performance at Rally Germany, following a similarly overpowering win in Finland. The Toyota driver again controlled the event, leading from the third stage, to triumph for the third time this season.
After a drama-filled final morning, Thierry Neuville finished an unexpected second with Esapekka Lappi moving up to third, giving Toyota its second consecutive double podium finish.
Neuville’s finish extended his lead over Sebastien Ogier but by only two points, such was today’s rate of attrition and the Frenchman’s maximum points haul in the Power Stage. Tanak’s victory and four points in the Power Stage sees the Estonian nearly halve the deficit to Ogier and he is now only 13 points adrift in third.
The Manufacturers’ Championship continues to be led by the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team but Toyota Gazoo Racing has overhauled M-Sport Ford for second position and is chasing down the Korean manufacturer, 13 points separating the teams.
Tanak was able to adopt a cautious approach over today’s closing three stages and the Estonian took a near maximum points haul away from the last full asphalt event of the season. Behind him, however, it was carnage among the front-runners. Starting the day in second position, Dani Sordo had a charging Jari-Matti Latvala just eight-tenths of a second behind him and, while pushing on through the first stage, the Spaniard went off the road into the vineyards. Despite damage to the front end, and a broken windscreen, he was able to continue but was unable to start the next stage with temperatures running too high.
Next to hit problems was third-placed Latvala, the Finn stopping in the same stage with a transmission problem. As such, Neuville climbed from fourth to second. The Belgian was fastest through the day’s opener and despite a couple of small mistakes had enough of a buffer to Lappi to secure the position at the end of a dramatic event. Lappi notched up his best result on tarmac and was delighted to have a clean weekend with no problems, the reward being third overall.
Ogier eventually secured fourth on an event he had the potential to win, such was his pace. His maximum Power Stage points limited the damage in the title fight and once again he will be looking to reset ahead of the next round in Turkey.
Teammate Teemu Suninen was behind in fifth, exceeding his own expectations on his first tarmac event in a WRC car and happy to have shown improved speed over the course of the rally. Andreas Mikkelsen was sixth, enduring a difficult weekend as he tirelessly worked to adapt his driving style to the tarmac spec i20 Coupe WRC.
After an accident yesterday, Craig Breen regained his confidence and finished last of the leading WRC cars in seventh. Mads Ostberg rounded out a disappointing weekend for Citroen with an off in the opening stage, forcing him into retirement with underbody damage.
In the FIA WRC 2 Championship, Jan Kopecky never gave up after losing considerable time with a puncture yesterday. He fought his way through the field and with a string of three fastest times today, he overhauled Kalle Rovanpera and Fabio Andolfi to take the category win by 3.8 seconds and the lead in the series. Taisko Lario took two stage wins today en route to his first WRC 3 victory, the Finn’s first on paved roads. He beat Enrico Brazzoli and Louise Cook.
The 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the crews to Marmaris for the all-new Rally Turkey. Despite the country hosting rounds of the WRC previously, this will be the first time the event has been based in this part of the country and absolutely everything about this gravel encounter will be new for all the contenders.