PHOTO: Ott Tänak (right) and co-driver Martin Jarveoja celebrate victory in ADAC Rallye Germany (WRC pic).
FORD driver Ott Tänak has joined a tightening battle for the FIA World Rally Championship after winning the 10th round at ADAC Rallye Germany yesterday.
The 29-year-old Estonian won the opening stage on Thursday night then led the outright standings from Friday afternoon until the Sunday finish in Bostalsee to claim his career-second victory by 16.4 seconds over Citroën’s Andreas Mikkelsen.
Tänak’s teammate Sébastien Ogier drove his M-Sport Ford Fiesta to third place, breaking clear at a crucial stage in his bid to win a fifth straight drivers’ championship.
Starting in Germany equal with Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, Ogier now has a 17-point advantage after his Belgian rival failed to recover from damaging his car on Saturday and scored no points.
Tänak’s success brought him within 33 points of Ogier. He declared at the finish he had not ruled out a championship challenge as the season heads to the round-13 finale at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast on 16-19 November.
“I don’t see any reason why we should not be able to fight for it, so we will fight for it. We need to keep winning if we want to win the championship,” he said.
Tänak won six of the rally’s 21 competitive stages, but eight drivers shared the others – Dani Sordo (Hyundai, five wins), Mikkelsen (two), Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota, two), Juho Hänninen (Toyota, two), Neuville (one), Ogier (one), Esapekka Lappi (Toyota, one) and Craig Breen (Citroën, one) – illustrating the unprecedented competitiveness of this year’s championship under new technical rules that virtually eliminated performance differences between the outright cars.
Friday was the turning point in Tänak’s German campaign with co-driver Martin Jarveoja.
“Everything was done on Friday with a perfect tyre choice and perfect run in tricky conditions. After this we controlled our lead and winning our first asphalt event feels good,” he said.
Several mistakes on Saturday ended Mikkelsen’s hopes. The Norwegian kept the pressure on, but his realistic goal was to keep Ogier behind him and he ended 14.0sec clear of the Frenchman. The result rewarded efforts by Citroën to improve its performance, including employing Mikkelsen for selected events and nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb to undertake a trouble-shooting test before Germany.
Juho Hänninen followed up his first WRC podium at the previous round in Finland with fourth in a Toyota Yaris. He conceded position to Elfyn Evans on Saturday night after breaking a damper, but regained it yesterday morning.
Evans rued his choice of soft compound tyres for the final four speed tests. He was also overhauled by Ireland’s Craig Breen, who snatched fifth in the final stage despite landing from a jump with such force that it cracked his C3’s windscreen. The gap was 1.9sec.
The championship now takes a six-week break before heading to Spain for the only mixed-surface fixture of the season. RallyRACC Catalunya-Rally de España is based in Salou on 5-8 October.
ADAC Rallye Deutschland (Rd 10 or 13):
1 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2h57m31.7s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Citroen C3 WRC) +16.4s
3 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +30.4s
4 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1m49.2s
5 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC): +2m01.5s
6 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m03.4s
7 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m58.2s
8 Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +4m32.4s
9 Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer (Ford Fiesta WRC) +10m19.4s
10 Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (Ford Fiesta R5) +10m44.3s
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 10:
1 Sebastien Ogier 177
2 Thierry Neuville 160
3 Ott Tanak 144
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 123
5 Dani Sordo 89
6 Elfyn Evans 87
7 Craig Breen 64
8 Juho Hänninen 58
9 Hayden Paddon 55
10 Esapekka Lappi 49
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for manufacturers after round 10:
1 M-Sport World Rally Team 325
2 Hyundai Motorsport 261
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT 213
4 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 163