Tänak hoping to keep WRC title campaign alive in Wales

Ott Tänak in last year's Rally Wales.
Ott Tänak in last year's Rally Wales. Source: AFP/Scanpix

Rally Wales takes place this weekend, with Estonian driver Ott Tänak hoping to maintain or extend his lead at the top of the WRC table.

The event is celebrating its 75th anniversary no less, with changeable autumnal Welsh weather conditions and plenty of mud providing a challenge for all taking part.

In fact, the race's initial events in Thursday are not in Wales, but at the Oulton Park Circuit in nearby Cheshire, England.

Friday takes proceedings to Llandudno in North Wales, adjacent to the Snowdonia National Par (Parc Cenedlaethol Eryri).

With the nights drawing in, the final stage on Friday takes place after dark, and Saturday's stages have no midday maintenance break as would normally be the case.

The rally will begin on Thursday at the Oulton Park Circuit, where the audience will test. Friday and Saturday pass in an already familiar setting between the forests of Wales. On Friday, the last attempt will be made in the dark and on Saturday there will be no maintenance break in the middle of the day. Five more stages follow on Sunday including an ashphalt stage on Great Orme's Head just outside Llandudno.

Tänak, 31, from Saaremaa, only managed five points in the last rally in Turkey, where the Toyota Yaris was plagued with technical issues.

This enabled race-winner Sébastien Ogier (France, Citroen) to leapfrog erstwhile second-placed man Thierry Neuville Belgium, Hyundai), and close the gap on Tänak to just 17 points with three races to go (including Wales).

Significantly, Ogier has won five of the last six Rally Wales events, including last year's, where Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja finished eighth. In fact, the Estonian has only reached the podium once in the event, in his career so far.

Local hero Elfyn Evans (M-Sport Ford), from Dolgellau in north-west Wales, will also be looking for success.

"Rally Wales is always special," Tänak said, according to ERR's online sports portal.

"I like it because of its fast and smooth roads," he continued, adding that: "Confidence and belief in our car is needed at every rally. The race for the WRC title is now much fiercer, but there are three stages to go and we know we are fast. Now we just have to get the job done and we're starting that from Wales," he added.

The weather is set to be wet and windy, with wind speeds of up to 19 km/h, though Storm (and former Hurricane) Lorenzo, likely to make landfall in Ireland on Thursday and thus Britain soon after, should not affect Rally Wales unduly, according to organizers.

ERR's sports portal will be live-blogging Rally Wales (in Estonian) here, with Sunday's key stages broadcast live there and on ETV as well, from 2 p.m.

Rally Wales is followed by Rally de España later in the month, with the season finale taking place in Australia in mid-November.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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