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Rally Germany WRC: Tanak closes in on fourth win in five rallies

Stephen Brunsdon
Tanak closes in on fourth win in five rallies

Toyota's Ott Tanak is within touching distance of a fourth World Rally Championship victory in five outings ahead of the final stage of Rally Germany.

Tanak maintained his overnight lead of 25.1 seconds over team-mate Kris Meeke after taking it easy on the passes through Grafschaft and Dhrontal on Sunday morning.

The third Toyota of Jari-Matti Latvala is a further 15.6s behind Meeke but is now just under 10 seconds ahead of the leading Hyundai of Dani Sordo, despite winning the first pass at Dhrontal (SS17).

Sordo began the final day almost half a minute adrift of Latvala but put in a storming run on the opening stage of the morning to reduce the deficit to just 16.1s.

Latvala later shipped another eight seconds on SS18, although Sordo is expected to hand his current fourth place to title contending team-mate Thierry Neuville on the Powerstage.

Having been ruled out of the fight for victory after stopping to change a punctured tyre on Saturday, Neuville set about limiting the damage in his Hyundai i20.

Neuville won both SS16 and SS18 to edge further away from Hyundai stablemate Andreas Mikkelsen, who found himself embroiled in an ebb and flow battle with the Citroen of Esapekka Lappi for sixth.

The pair were split by 5.8s in the Mikkelsen's favour coming into the morning's opening stage, but Lappi moved ahead after Mikkelsen suffered a minor off-road excursion.

Mikkelsen then turned a 4.8s deficit into a 1.0s advantage after Dhrontal before extending it marginally to 1.8s lead ahead of the final stage.

Lappi is also expected to cede his seventh place to Citroen team-mate Sebastien Ogier, who also suffered a puncture in Saturday's running.

Ogier complained that he "cannot drive this car" following a difficult SS17, despite finishing the stage fourth quickest. The six-time WRC champion lies eighth, some two minutes behind Tanak.

Tanak closes in on fourth win in five rallies

Gus Greensmith is the only M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver in the top 10 following team-mate Teemu Suninen's mechanical woes on Friday.

Rounding out the leading WRC runners is debutant Takamoto Katsuta, who recovered from a hairpin stall on SS16.

In WRC2 Pro, Jan Kopecky maintains a healthy margin of 48.7s over fellow Skoda Fabia R5 driver Fabian Kreim.

Leading positions after SS18

Pos Driver Team Car Gap
1 Ott Tanak, M.Jarveoja Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 3h07m52.4s
2 Kris Meeke, S.Marshall Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 25.1s
3 Jari-Matti Latvala, M.Anttila Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT Toyota 40.7s
4 Dani Sordo, C.del Barrio Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 50.5s
5 Thierry Neuville, N.Gilsoul Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1m05.7s
6 Esapekka Lappi, J.Ferm Citroen Total WRT Citroen 1m44.1s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen, A.Jager Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT Hyundai 1m45.9s
8 Sebastien Ogier, J.Ingrassia Citroen Total WRT Citroen 2m00.3s
9 Gus Greensmith, E.Edmondson M-Sport Ford WRT Ford 6m21.3s
10 Takamoto Katsuta, D.Barritt Tommi Makinen Racing Toyota 8m08.9s

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