Tänak wins Rally Wales, extends championship lead

Ott Tänak (right) and co-driver Martin Järveoja in the podium in Wales.
Ott Tänak (right) and co-driver Martin Järveoja in the podium in Wales. Source: ERR

Estonian rally star Ott Tänak won Rally Wales for the first time in his career, with maximum points, extending his lead at the top of the WRC drivers' table with two races to go in the season.

Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja dominated proceedings for Toyota from the second stage on Friday, and never looked back.

The only other two drivers still with a shot at the title finished second and third.

Belgian Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), last season's runner up, finished just over 10 seconds behind Tänak, and reigning six-time world champion Sebastien Ogier (Citroen) was third.

"It was a long weekend," Tänak said after the race, ERR's sports portal reports.

"The days were long, and the nights short. We were under pressure all the time …every stage was on the limit," he continued.

"This was definitely a tough rally, but it feels good. Two stages are still to go. We've seen plenty of drama in the past, and we need to stay focused and continue the same way," he added.

Toyota team boss, former world champion Finn Tommi Mäkinen said he held his breath during the crucial test stage. 

"Now I know what it means to not breathe for four minutes," he said.

"It was extremely exciting and he [Tänak] is wonderful. He is clearly the strongest driver at the moment," he added.

Fears of extreme weather conditions as the aftermath of Hurricane Lorenzo made a landfall on the British Isles towards the end of the week failed to materialize, and normal soft autumn weather in North Wales prevailed.

A planned ashpalt stage on Great Orme's Head outside Lllandudno was cancelled.

Tänak's teammate Chris Meeke (Northern Ireland) was fourth, Welshman Elfyn Evans (Ford) finished fifth in front of the home crowd, and Norway's Andrea Mikkelsen (Hyundai) was sixth.

Two races are left before the season climaxes, in Spain three weekends from now, then Australia in mid-November.

Tänak, 31, from Saaremaa, finished third last year and has yet to win the drivers' title. He had also only finished once on the podium at Rally Wales until now.

Martin Järveoja, 32, from Elva, tops the co-drivers table, though Toyota is second in the manufacturers' table, behind Hyundai.

The video below shows the crucial test stage broadcast on ETV with Estonian commentary, with the podium celebrations as well.



The drivers' table now

Tänak almost doubled his lead in the 37-driver table with the result, and is now on 240 points to Ogier's 212. The latter reclaimed his second-placed position after briefly switching places with Thierry Neuville following rally Turkey. Only Ogier and Neuville have a mathematical chance of spoiling Tänak's party over the two remaning races.

Andreas Mikkelsen is in fourth. Kris Meeke and Elfyn Evans are in fifth and sixth place respectively, followed by a trio of Finns, Tänak's Toyota teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, Esapekka Lappi (Citroen) and Teemu Suninen (Hyundai). Dani Sordo (Spain, Hyundai) is 10th.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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