Estonian rally star Ott Tänak (Toyota) won the WRC Neste Rally Finland over the weekend, increasing his lead at the top of the drivers table to 22 points, over reigning champion Sébastien Ogier (Citroën) of France.
The win comes two weeks after Tänak, 31, from Saaremaa, won his home rally, not a full-calendar rally, but a WRC promotional event, and follows a two-month summer break in WRC races.
Tänak, and co-driver Martin Järveoja, won by 25.6 secs over home favourite Esapekka Lappi (Citroën), at the circuit near Jyväskylä, in south-central Finland.
Tänak's own teammates, Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) and Kris Meeke (Northern Ireland), also ran him quite hard in the early stages of the rally, but Tänak widened the lead through the course of Saturday, winning not only the final leg on Sunday but also clinching the Wolf Power Stage to give him five bonus points and maximum score. Latvala finished third and Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen (Hyundai) was fourth.
Ogier, who has won the last six WRC titles on the trot, was struggling with illness at the Finnish event, finishing fifth, with Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), runner up to Ogier in last year's championship, in sixth place. Irishman Craig Breen (Hyundai) was seventh.
"I feel good. It's been a big weekend," Tänak said, immediately after his win.
"I believe the summer break was at the right point, because ... I was really devastated after Sardinia, I'm sure all the team was the same. I hope it's a great motivation boost for you (the viewing audience-ed.)...now we got the perfect result, we had a great weekend and we need to continue the same," he continued.
"There are still five more races to go ... and still we need five more like this, so it's a big job to do," Tänak added (see video link below).
IT'S A WIN! ????????????— Ott Tänak (@OttTanak) August 4, 2019
AND 5️⃣ points from the Power Stage AGAIN! ????The fight was tight, but we did it again! Big thanks to the whole team and fans! ????⁰
AITÄH KÕIGILE! ????⁰#RallyFinland #WINNERS #GoOtt #OttTänak #MartinJärveoja #TanakFanArmy #WRC #Rallying #TGR_WRC pic.twitter.com/PoTylguNEy
The win is Tänak's third in the last four WRC races, having won in Chile and Portugal, in addition to his victory in the second race of the season, in Sweden. The result also puts Tänak back on track in every sense, after steering issues cost him victory in Sardinia in June.
Five races remain in the season, with Rallye Deutschland next, taking place close to Trier, Germany, on Aug. 22-25. The season's finale is in Australia in November. Should Tänak maintain his lead, it would give him his debut title. He finished third in both 2017 and 2018.
Tänak's team, Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT, are currently second in the manufacturers' table, behind Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT.
Editor: Andrew Whyte