The future of the WRC is in good hands if Ott Tanak and Esapekka Lappi’s wins in Germany and Finland are anything to go by.
Has the FIA World Rally Championship found its stars of the future? Three wins in the last four rallies have gone to 29-year-old Ott Tanak and 26-year-old Esapekka Lappi. Those who follow Indians in rallying will recall Lappi partnering India’s Gaurav Gill at Team MRF in the Asia Pacific Rally Championship in 2013 when Gill won the title.
Finland’s Lappi gave his compatriots something to cheer about as he won Rally Finland while Tänak, who broke his career duck with victory in Italy in June, drove his Ford Fiesta to a 16.4sec victory over Citroen’s Andreas Mikkelsen at Rallye Deutschland.
Sébastien Ogier finished third to move 17 points clear in the WRC standings after Thierry Neuville failed to score. The Belgian could only finish 44th after breaking his Hyundai i20’s suspension.
Estonian Tänak took the lead on Friday afternoon and eased through today’s short finale on dry country roads in Saarland. He lies 33 points behind Ogier and has not ruled out a title challenge with three rounds remaining.
Several mistakes on Saturday ended Mikkelsen’s hopes. The Norwegian kept the pressure on, but his realistic goal was to keep Ogier behind him and he ended 14.0sec clear of the Frenchman in his Citroën C3.
Once Neuville dropped out of contention, Ogier was happy to settle for third and big points. He offered no challenge to Mikkelsen today, but claimed two extra bonus points in the final Power Stage to further boost his hopes of a fifth straight title.
Juho Hänninen followed up his first WRC podium at the previous round in Finland with fourth in a Toyota Yaris. He conceded position to Elfyn Evans on the first day after breaking a damper, but regained it the next day.
Evans rued his choice of soft compound tyres for the second day’s final four speed tests. He was also overhauled by Ireland’s Craig Breen, who snatched fifth in the final stage despite landing from a jump with such force that it cracked his C3’s windscreen. The gap was 1.9sec.
Following a six-week break the championship moves to Spain for the only mixed-surface fixture of the season. RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España is based in Salou on October 5-8.
With two wins against Ogier in the same car as the Frenchman, Tanak has given rallying fans something they never thought they would see while Sebastien Loeb and then Ogier dominated the WRC, a proper title fight.