Toyota sweeps the WRC podium for the first time since 1993
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A Toyota trifecta has edged Estonia’s Ott Tanak further ahead in the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers and has tightened the duel between the Japanese marque and Hyundai for the Manufacturers’ honours.
Tanak scored his fourth win in the last five events with victory at ADAC Rallye Deutschland at the weekend. Tanak led home team-mates Kris Meeke (GB) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) for Toyota’s first WRC podium sweep since the 1993 Kenyan Safari Rally during the Celica GT-Four Group A era.
The margin of victory for Tanak was 20.8secs over Meeke after 19 tarmac special stages but a brake issue late in the rally meant Tanak was unable to challenge for Power Stage bonus points.
But Tanak built on his previous series lead of 22 points over Citroen’s reigning champion Sebastien Ogier (France) and now leads by 33 points over Hyundai’s Thierry
Neuville (Belgium) who finished fourth and earned the maximum five points for winning the Power Stage.
The early part of the rally in the Mosel vineyards on Friday and the Saarland countryside stages on Saturday morning had seen Tanak and Neuville battle for the rally lead.
Tanak’s overnight lead on Friday was a slender 2.8secs with Ogier in third place but already 22.1secs behind and finding his Citroen to be handling inconsistently. Neuville closed the gap to 1.5secs after Saturday’s first stage then stalled briefly at a junction and Tanak’s advantage stretched to 6.7secs.
The rough and broken surfaces of the Baumholder military training area proved the decider with Neuville stopping early in the 41km Panzerplatte stage to change a left rear puncture. The delay was about 90secs which dropped the Belgian to seventh place and put the Toyotas into a comfortable 1-2-3 formation.
With Ogier dropping back and Hyundai’s Dani Sordo (Spain) having lost some time on Friday with a transmission issue there was little pressure on the Toyota Yaris trio so long as the avoided delays on the remaining stages.
Neuville won three of the four Sunday stages to edge away from Citroen challenger Esapekka Lappi (Finland) and Latvala had to fend off fourth-placed Sordo during the final day to assure Toyota’s trifecta.
While Toyota celebrated its podium lock-out both Hyundai and Citroen were able to manipulate the minor positions without sacrificing Manufacturers’ points. Sordo checked into the final control two minutes late to collect a 20secs penalty and allow Neuville into fourth place while Lappi checked in three minutes late and dropped from sixth to eighth in the process of bumping Ogier up to seventh in the reshuffle.
Tanak now leads the driver’s championship with 205 points from Neuville on 172 while Ogier has slipped to third on 172. Meeke’s runner-up finish in Germany moves him to fourth place on 80 points.
Back in July — during the mid-season break — Hyundai had led the Manufacturers’ standings by 44 points. Toyota Gazoo Racing has had the momentum since the season resumed with Tanak’s Finland and Germany wins spearheading a surge that has narrowed the gap to just eight points with Hyundai on 289 and Toyota with 281. Citroen is third with 216.
Four rallies remains to decide the 2019 title fight with the next round being Rally Turkey based in Marmaris from September 12-15.