Hyundai’s Ott Tanak and Martin Jarveoja sealed a home win on Rally Estonia by finishing third on the rally’s Power Stage. The local heroes lived up to pre-event expectations and perfectly managed their overnight lead to clinch their first World Rally Championship win with Hyundai, 22.2 seconds ahead of Ireland’s Craig Breen and Paul Nagle.
“It was a challenging stage,” explained Tanak, “It was tough to stay between the bushes to bring it home.
“I am happy, to win with Hyundai for the first time means a lot, the team has been working so hard.
“If you race at home, even if you don’t know some roads, you still feel the support from the people around, it’s a great feeling.”
Breen and Nagle had a weekend to remember themselves as they professionally controlled their runner-up position since the rally’s second stage. Two stage-wins on Saturday afternoon proved crucial in putting six-time World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier off the scent of a second-place finish.
The Irish crew won’t take part in the next round of the WRC as Sebastien Loeb will drive the third Hyundai i20 WRC on Rally Turkey. Breen’s performance will put him in a strong position for another round before the end of the year, most likely in Ypres.
“We took it easy in there,” said Breen at the end of the final stage. “We didn’t mean to take it that easy but it was incredibly rough.
“It has been an incredible weekend, I have to thank everybody that gave me the chance to be here. This man beside me [Nagle] has been incredible as well.
“I can’t wait to do more and more.”
Toyota struggled to match the pace of its Hyundai rivals on Saturday and when the speed was found on Sunday it was too little to challenge Tanak and Breen out front.
Instead, Ogier had to fend off Rally Sweden winner Elfyn Evans who looked threatening after his stage win on Sunday’s opening test.
Evans eventually settled for fourth, 15 seconds behind the Frenchman as he laboured through slower sections of the following stages. Ogier upped his pace and commented that he was able to push more on the second loop after making some set-up adjustments.
Kalle Rovanpera was running on his own for most of the final day after he inherited fifth from Takamoto Katsuta following the Japanese driver’s rally-ending roll on Stage 13, Kaagvere.
Rovanpera showed throughout Rally Estonia that he had the pace to finish on the podium but almost a minute and a half was lost on Saturday from a tyre delamination and a time control penalty.
The young Finn dominated Rally Estonia’s Power Stage, taking the maximum five points, 5.1 seconds ahead of nearest Power Stage challenger Evans.
M-Sport’s Teemu Suninen jumped ahead of his Finnish counterpart, Esapekka Lappi, on the penultimate stage. Lappi’s Ford Fiesta WRC jumped out of one of Estonia’s many ruts at high-speed, sending him into a spin which cost over ten seconds.
Thierry Neuville’s return to WRC action went from bad to worse on the Power Stage. After an accident forced him to retire his i20 WRC from third, halfway through Saturday, Neuville returned on Sunday with the sole focus of scoring Power Stage points.
The Belgian conserved his car and tyres heading into the Kaagvere Power Stage but was down on power from the very start of the stage. He leaves Estonia without any points and faces a huge task to chase Ogier at the top of the WRC standings.
In WRC 2, Citroen’s Mads Ostberg claimed a comfortable 1:28.4s win over M-Sport’s Adrien Formaux. Nikolay Gryazin was in second until a puncture hemorrhaged time on the final stage of the rally.
Oliver Solberg and Aaron Johnston cruised to WRC 3 success in their Volkswagen Polo R5. It’s the young pairing’s first WRC 3 win and finished as the fastest Rally2 runner, 38.7 seconds ahead of WRC 2 winner Ostberg.
Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motorsport