The driver from Kärla has thus dealt a hard blow to both the championship and his rivals’ spirits with this his sixth victory of the season and third over the last four races (Finland, Germany and Wales).
It was precisely in Wales that Tänak lost his title chances a year ago. This time around, however, he has stretched his lead of the standings to 240 points, 28 more than the French six-time-champion and 41 more than the Belgian driver from the Alzenau team. The latter is now seeing his title options slip awaywith 3 races until the end.
Sunday: Tänak controls his rivals
Tänak was able to comfortably deal with the pressure from his rivals during the last day of the rally, winning the first and last specials of the day. His performance sent a loud and clear message regarding his strength as a title candidate at the Rally Great Britain – Wales 2019.
The other two stages went to Elfyn Evans, who finished in a very well deserved fifth position. Let’s not forget that this was his great comeback after suffering an injury in mid-July. One position above him, in fourth, came the Yaris WCR driven by Kris Meeke, a very important result for the constructor’s standings.
Saturday: Tänak extends his meagre advantage
With the mud taking centre stage, and despite the relentless attacks of his two opponents for the Championship title, Neuville and Ogier, Tänak managed to keep his first place in the Rally Wales 2019.
After a very consistent performance, and despite winning only one of the seven specials in the day, the Estonian driver distanced himself from Neuville by 11 seconds and from Ogier by 17.3. He had started the day with a meagre 3.4-seconds advantage over his pursuers.
The most important stage of the Rally Great Britain-Wales 2019, containing almost half the kilometres of the whole rally, began with Elfyn Evans on the attack. In his long-awaited reappearance from Rally Estonia and before his countrymen, the MSport driver and his Fiesta WRC were the fastest in the three first specials.
Then it was Neuville’s turn two win the next two specials, but his performance was not threatening enough to worry the driver from Kärla. His teammate Andreas Mikkelsen replicated the feat later, demonstrating his Hyundai I20 WRC is well suited for the slippery Welsh tracks.
Tänak closed the day with a scratch despite having lost the bumper of his Yaris WRC, which prevented him from hearing the instructions of his co-pilot.
Meanwhile, his partner, Meeke, who lead for most of Friday, could not keep up the pace on the following day, losing 28.9 seconds to the star of his own team.
Friday: Tänak takes control
Ott Tänak had a very relaxed Friday at the head of the race with Sébastien Ogier just 3.4 seconds behind and his Toyota teammate, Kris Meeke at 3.6 seconds from him.
Thanks to a great performance in the tenth and final stretch, the standings’ leader knocked his lieutenant Kris Meeke out of the game. The brave Northern Irish driver, who had defended himself with all of his might from the attacks of his team leader, gave in on the last meters of the day.
As night fell, he could not hold the Estonian offensive off, being as he had the only contender who had completed the special in the daylight. Title holder Ogier, a soldier with a thousand battles under his belt, took advantage of the civil war between the two drivers of the Japanese team to get in between them. The driver from Gap had climbed to second place by 0.2 seconds at the Rally Great Britain-Wales 2019.
Friday had started with Meeke’s Yaris WRC on the lead after this has had won Thursday’s first leg at Oulton Park. He was 2.1 seconds ahead of Thierry Neuville and 3.8 ahead of Ogier. The third title hopeful, the Belgian from Hyundai, finished fourth at 8.4 seconds from the top.
Images: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT.