PATIENCE paid dividends for Ott Tänak as he claimed a third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship victory in Turkey on Sunday afternoon to further ignite his title bid.
The Estonian quickly realised he did not have the speed to match his rivals at Rally Turkey and settled for a more cautious pace in the searing heat on rocky gravel roads near Marmaris.
He was rewarded when driver after driver fell by the wayside in the gruelling conditions, climbing from ninth midway through Friday’s opening leg to head a Toyota Yaris one-two by 22.3sec from Jari-Matti Latvala.
The result increases expectations that the fight for the drivers’ title will go down to the final round at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 15-18 November.
Tänak became the first driver to win three consecutive rounds since world champion Sébastien Ogier claimed four in a row en route to the 2016 title.
“It was so difficult. On Friday we knew if we finished in the top five or six we would be happy. Since the start it wasn’t a rally where the fastest would win, it would be the smartest. We did the whole rally without any stops and now the championship looks interesting,” he said.
Tänak moved into the lead of one of the most dramatic rounds in years on Saturday after title rivals Thierry Neuville and Sébastien Ogier retired. He eased through Sunday’s finale and was welcomed onto the podium by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Tänak climbed to second in the points, just 13 adrift of Thierry Neuville who gained some consolation from a barren weekend by claiming maximum bonus points in the Live TV Power Stage. Ogier is a further 10 points back with three rounds remaining.
Second was Latvala’s best result of the year and Hayden Paddon claimed a similar season-best in third in a Hyundai i20. The New Zealander finished 1min 46.3sec behind Tänak.
Teemu Suninen was fourth in a Ford Fiesta, more than four minutes off the winning pace, with erstwhile leader Andreas Mikkelsen recovering from a broken front right driveshaft yesterday to finish fifth in an i20.
Henning Solberg was sixth ahead of WRC 2 winner Jan Kopecký, Simone Tempestini and Chris Ingram. Ogier took a solitary point for 10th after team-mate Elfyn Evans deliberately incurred time penalties to drop behind the Frenchman.
Round 11 is the Dayinsure Wales Rally GB, on 4 – 7 October.
Final Overall Classification – Rally Turkey:
1 O. Tänak/M. Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) 3:59:24.5
2 J-M Latvala/M. Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +22.3
3 H. Paddon/S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1:46.3
4 T. Suninen/M. Markkula (Ford Fiesta WRC) +4:10.9
5 A. Mikkelsen/A. Jæger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +7:11.7
6 H. Solberg/I. Minor (Škoda Fabia R5) +13:40.6
7 J. Kopecky/P. Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +18:52.2
8 S. Tempestini/S. Itu (Citroën C3 R5) +19:37.1
9 C. Ingram/R. Whittock (Škoda Fabia R5) +20:21.3
10 S. Ogier/J. Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +20:51.2
FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers (after round 10):
1 T. Neuville 177
2 O. Tanak 164
3 S. Ogier 154
4 E. Lappi 88
5 A. Mikkelsen 75
6 J-M Latvala 75
7 D. Sordo 60
8 T. Suninen 54
9 E. Evans 53
10 H. Paddon 49
FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers (after round 10):
1 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 284
2 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 279
3 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 244
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 169