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Ott Tänak wins Rally Belgium

Ott Tänak (right) and Martin Järveoja after winning in Belgium.
Ott Tänak (right) and Martin Järveoja after winning in Belgium. Source: Hyundai Motorsport

Ott Tänak was victorious in Rally Belgium Sunday, with he and co-driver Martin Järveoja picking up their third win of the season, and second in-a-row, for Hyundai in Ypres/Ieper, in exciting style, just seconds ahead of Toyota.

Tänak won last month's Rally Finland, and was also the victor in Sardinia, making 2022 his most successful season since the world championship-winning 2019 series, which he won for Toyota.

"In any case, the victory came as a surprise, but somehow we managed it. It's nice to finally be seeing some good results," Tänak said post-race. Co-driver Järveoja also celebrated his birthday Thursday, making the win the ideal gift.

While at least year's race, run primarily on asphalt around the historic market town of Ypres/Ieper, the Estonian was sixth, and started this year's race fairly modestly, in seventh place at Thursday's pre-race shakedown stage, Tänak, 34 from Saaremaa, went on to win four speed tests, shared one more with local hero and teammate Thierry Neuville, and finished consistently in the top three in virtually all other stages, to take victory in a time of 2:25.38.9.

Welshman Elfyn Evans was second for Toyota, just five seconds behind Tänak, while Finn Esapekka Lappi, who also drives for Toyota, came third.

With the win, Tänak also closed the gap on another Toyota driver, and another Finn, Kalle Rovanperä, who so far has been the runaway leader of the 2022 drivers' table.

On Saturday, Evans provided Tänak's toughest competition, while Neuville ended up in a ditch on the last stage of the day.

On Sunday, Evans won the first two stages of the day and only 6.7 seconds separated the pair going into the maintenance break. Tänak won his fourth stage Sunday afternoon, enough to bag the win, though Rovanperä won the power points stage, as per tradition held after the regular stages.

Tänak remains second in the WRC 2022 drivers' table on 131 points after Belgium, round nine of the championship, and is 72 points behind table leader Rovenperä. Evans is third (116 points), Neuville fourth (106 points), Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) fifth on 92 points, and Irishman Craig Breen is sixth, and is the first-placed M-Sport Ford driver.

Of the three constructors, Toyota have 381 points, Hyundai 293 points and M-Sport Ford 188 points.

The next race starts September 8 in Greece, with the Acropolis Rally.

Three races remain thereafter: New Zealand, Catalunya and Japan.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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