Rally GB: Ott Tanak closes on 2019 WRC title with victory

Ott Tanak strengthened his World Rally Championship title bid with victory on Rally GB, scoring a maximum 30 points by topping the Brenig powerstage

Rally GB: Ott Tanak closes on 2019 WRC title with victory

Toyota team-mate Kris Meeke had led early on Friday morning, with Tanak starting on the back foot after a mistake on the rally-opening Oulton Park superspecial.

A storming drive on the pair of Friday night stages, Dyfnant and Aberhirnant, then propelled Tanak into a lead he would gradually extend over the next two days.

His only other concern was on Saturday afternoon, when a compression ripped the rear bumper off his Toyota Yaris WRC on Sweet Lamb and left him struggling to hear co-driver Martin Jarveoja's notes - though there was no noticeable impact on his pace.

Tanak's advantage in the championship is now up to 28 points, giving him a strong chance of wrapping up a first world title with a round to spare on Rally Spain at the end of this month.

He will clinch the championship there if he can end the event 30 points clear.

Hyundai's Thierry Neuville had been slower out of the blocks than his title rivals, spending the first half of the rally in fourth place.

A push on Saturday's afternoon loop gave Neuville stage wins on Myherin and Dyfi and took him past both Sebastien Ogier's Citroen and Meeke.

He then continued to pull away from Ogier on the final day to secure second place.

Ogier admitted his pace on the final day was "not so great" though his buffer to fourth-placed Meeke before Sunday's stages was sufficient to wrap up the final podium position.

The reigning champion stepped up the pace on the Brenig powerstage, picking up four bonus points for second to Tanak while Neuville could only muster fifth-fastest time.

That leaves Ogier and Neuville 28 and 41 points off Tanak respectively heading into the deciding two rallies.

Esapekka Lappi, who had crashed out and retired on Friday, lent a helping hand to team-mate Ogier's title bid on the powerstage by going third fastest, adding an extra car between himself and Neuville along with M-Sport's Elfyn Evans.

Evans completed the outright top five in the lead Ford Fiesta WRC, overhauling Andreas Mikkelsen on the final day with a stage win on the first pass of Brenig and then locking down the place with a further fastest time on the second pass of Alwen.

Over 40 seconds had been lost by Evans on Friday's second stage, when he ran wide and damaged the suspension on his Fiesta, but he climbed back up the leaderboard with seven stage wins across three days.

Mikkelsen's choice of four soft tyres for the Sunday morning loop backfired and had cost him nearly five seconds on Brenig, and his push to retake fifth during the final loop backfired on Alwen when he overshot a hairpin and nearly stalled.

Pontus Tidemand finished a lonely seventh in the second M-Sport Fiesta. He gained a place when team-mate Teemu Suninen withdrew on Saturday evening with extensive damage picked up from a puncture that could not be remedied in a timely manner.

An intra-team battle at Hyundai over fifth place between Mikkelsen and Craig Breen on Saturday had come to an end when Breen rolled on Myherin, losing over five minutes and consigning him to eighth at the finish.

Kalle Rovanpera clinched the WRC2 Pro title with class victory and ninth place overall, finishing nearly five minutes ahead of his Skoda team-mate Jan Kopecky.

Petter Solberg completed the top 10 in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 and took victory in the WRC2 class for privateer R5-specification cars, in what has been billed his final appearance in a WRC event.

The 2003 world champion was in a distant second after Friday's stages until a puncture on Dyfi for Pierre-Louis Loubet brought him back into contention.

By the Saturday afternoon pass of Myherin, Solberg had taken the lead from Loubet and edged further ahead for the rest of the rally.

Rally GB also decided the outcome of the Junior WRC title, the prize for which includes a free Ford Fiesta R5 eligible for WRC2.

Jan Solans, whose older brother Nil won the same championship in 2017, was in a straight fight with Swedish driver Tom Kristensson after the third title contender, Dennis Radstrom, crashed out early.

The pair had swapped places more than once but a puncture on Sweet Lamb cost Kristensson over three minutes, giving Solans a comfortable lead he held to the finish to secure the title.

Leading finishers

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 3h00m58.0s
2 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 10.9s
3 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Citroen Total WRT Citroen 23.8s
4 Kris Meeke, S.Marshall Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 35.6s
5 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 48.6s
6 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 58.2s
7 Pontus Tidemand, O.Floene M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 5m23.8s
8 Craig Breen, P.Nagle Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 9m25.0s
9 Kalle Rovanpera, J.Halttunen Skoda Motorsport Skoda 10m51.1s
10 Petter Solberg, P.Mills Petter Solberg Volkswagen 11m36.1s

Leading powerstage times

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 3m58.6s
2 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Citroen Total WRT Citroen 0.5s
3 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Citroen Total WRT Citroen 1.0s
4 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1.4s
4 Elfyn Evans, S.Martin M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 1.4s

Leading drivers' standings

Pos Driver Points
1 Ott Tanak 240
2 Sebastien Ogier 212
3 Thierry Neuville 199
4 Andreas Mikkelsen 102
5 Kris Meeke 98
6 Elfyn Evans 90
7 Jari-Matti Latvala 84
8 Esapekka Lappi 83
9 Teemu Suninen 83
10 Dani Sordo 72
11 Sebastien Loeb 39
12 Kalle Rovanpera 18
13 Pontus Tidemand 12
14 Craig Breen 10
15 Gus Greensmith 9

shares
comments
WRC Rally GB Great Orme stage cancelled as divers cannot get close
Previous article

WRC Rally GB Great Orme stage cancelled as divers cannot get close

Next article

FIA steps up plan to simplify WRC into five-tier career ladder

FIA steps up plan to simplify WRC into five-tier career ladder
Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival Plus

Why Monte Carlo success could spark another past master’s WRC revival

Some 39 years on from his Monte Carlo Rally debut, World Rally Championship legend Francois Delecour continues to pick up silverware. Proving that age is purely a number, the 60-year-old's desire to compete against the WRC’s latest young talents could be the start of a new chapter in the Frenchman’s storied career

WRC
Jan 31, 2023
How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master Plus

How fired-up Ogier became the WRC's ultimate Monte master

He may only be contesting a part-time campaign in the World Rally Championship these days, but Sebastien Ogier underlined that he's lost none of his speed in the 2023 season opener. Storming to yet another victory on the Monte Carlo Rally, the eight-time world champion rewrote the history books again as Toyota served notice of its intentions with a crushing 1-2

WRC
Jan 23, 2023
How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling Plus

How Lancia pulled off its famous Monte Carlo giantkilling

Audi should have been invincible in the snowy conditions that typically greeted the World Rally Championship paddock in Monte Carlo. But unexpectedly warm weather for the 1983 season opener, combined with some left-field thinking from the Lancia crew turned the tables. Forty years on, team boss Cesare Fiorio reflects on a smash and grab

WRC
Jan 21, 2023
Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion Plus

Why M-Sport has pinned all its efforts on a WRC reunion

M-Sport had a disastrous 2022 with its Rally1 Ford Pumas following Sebastien Loeb’s first-time-out win on the Monte. But now things are looking up with 2019 world champion Ott Tanak leading its attack, and the Cumbrian operation has optimism that it can challenge for a first title since Sebastien Ogier's departure at the end of 2018

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown Plus

The contenders seeking to take Rovanpera's WRC crown

As Kalle Rovanpera begins his World Rally Championship title defence in Monte Carlo, the Finn knows he has a target on his back. But who is best placed to knock the Toyota ace off his perch?

WRC
Jan 19, 2023
Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title Plus

Why Rovanpera is anticipating a fight to defend his WRC title

Question: what could be harder than becoming the youngest-ever World Rally champion? Answer: becoming the youngest-ever two-time World Rally champion. That's quite the challenge facing Toyota's Kalle Rovanpera in 2022, particularly against rejuvenated opposition in the second year of the WRC's hybrid regulations

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing Plus

From F1 to WRC: Why Hyundai's new boss could be an inspired signing

OPINION: New Hyundai WRC team boss Cyril Abiteboul admits he’s got a lot to learn as he leads the marque's efforts to dethrone Toyota. But could his Formula 1 experience and evident strengths mean he turns out to be an inspired choice?

WRC
Jan 18, 2023
The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed Plus

The ultimate rally car project the WRC is glad COVID killed

Toyota was unstoppable in the 2021 World Rally Championship, with an excellent 75% strike rate from 12 rallies. But in a scary proposition for its rivals, the Japanese marque had built a car for the final year of the previous regulations set which it believes was much faster and could feasibly have crushed the opposition completely. Here the story of its mothballed world-beater

WRC
Jan 1, 2023