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VODAFONE Rally de Portugal winner Ott Tänak forsook the lead in the FIA World Rally Championship last weekend to ensure a tactical advantage in the next round in Italy.

PHOTO: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool

Tänak and championship leader Sébastien Ogier started the rally first and second in the driver standings. With Tänak leading the event and Ogier heading for third place after Kris Meeke retired, whoever was faster in the closing Wolf Power Stage would claim more bonus points, lead the series and open the gravel tracks in the first leg of Rally Italia Sardegna on 13-16 June.

Road cleaning costs valuable time for the driver first in the starting order.

As well as an assured event victory in Portugal, Tänak was on course to win the Power stage and take a maximum five bonus points when he slowed his Toyota Yaris’ in the final metres.

It meant Ogier inherited fastest time and maximum bonus points to retain the championship lead – but at the cost of having to sweep the road for his rival in Sardinia.

“At first, we were thinking about the strategy a little and we thought every point would be important at the end of the year,” Tänak explained.

“We were going to finish three ahead of Seb without the Power Stage points and I thought that I should be faster than him. The plan was to collect as many points as possible.”

The strategy changed when Kris Meeke crashed early in the stage, promoting Ogier into third overall. A points tie was on the cards.

“Kris made his mistake and that changed everything. Seb was on the podium and we were going to be on the same points. I knew I needed to be a bit slower to avoid opening the road in Sardinia,” Tänak added.

Tänak’s tactics hit a slight glitch when Thierry Neuville joined Ogier in squeezing ahead of him in the Power Stage, meaning he trails Ogier by two points rather than the planned one.

The standings now are –

1 Ogier (Citroën)  142 points
2 Tänak (Toyota) 140
3 Neuville (Hyundai) 132

M-Sport Ford’s Elfyn Evans is a distant fourth, on 65 points.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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