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WRC Rally Germany: Tanak wins, Ogier minimises points damage

Ott Tanak wins WRC Germany 2018

Ott Tanak clinched a second straight dominant rally win in Germany, as Sebastien Ogier dropped just two points to World Rally Championship leader Thierry Neuville.

It had looked like Germany would be a huge blow to Ogier's title defence when he fell to ninth with a Saturday incident, but his recovery to fourth plus powerstage victory salvaged a 17-point score.

While Neuville finished second, he played it safe on the powerstage and only took one bonus point - which meant Ogier's TV stage win negated most of what Neuville had gained for the overall result and left the Belgian with a 23-point lead.

Just 0.178s split Ogier and Tanak on the powerstage. The four bonus points for second on that stage plus his 25 for winning in Germany for a second consecutive year means Tanak is now within 11 of Ogier and 34 of Neuville with four rounds to go.

Tanak escaped from Ogier during Friday, and was then handed a huge lead when the reigning WRC champion had to stop to change a damaged wheel on the second run of the Panzerplatte stage on Saturday afternoon.

As Ogier tumbled to ninth, Dani Sordo and Jari-Matti Latvala's battle became a fight for second.

Sordo, whose only WRC win so far came in Germany five years ago, had been muted on Friday but surged forward from sixth with strong pace on the military range stages.

Latvala came back at him when the route returned to the vineyards, and went into Sunday just 0.8s behind his rival for the runner-up spot.

Neither lasted long on the final morning: Sordo sustained rally-ending damage with a high-speed trip off the road, and Latvala had to park on the same stage with transmission problems.

Their double retirement was Neuville's second lifeline of the weekend after Ogier's incident.

Thierry Neuville Hyundai WRC Rally Germany 2018

The championship leader slipped back from his early third place on Saturday as he struggled with a not-ideal-specification differential after an oil leak encouraged Hyundai to make a precautionary gearbox change.

Even when Hyundai concluded the gearbox was undamaged and put Neuville's preferred transmission back in, he struggled to get back on terms with Sordo and Latvala due to both set-up and juggling whether to push or settle for the points he had.

Having inherited second, Neuville dismissed a challenge from Esapekka Lappi with strong Sunday morning pace that convinced Lappi to settle for a first WRC podium on asphalt in third.

Ogier charged back to fourth, helped by the late attrition.

His M-Sport Ford team-mate Teemu Suninen raised his pace through the weekend and followed Ogier up the order to take fifth.

M-Sport's other contender Elfyn Evans got himself into podium contention by the end of Friday but lost ground on Saturday morning before retiring from the day with broken suspension from a trip off the road.

Andreas Mikkelsen spent the weekend trying to change his driving style to turn his poor season with Hyundai around. He salvaged sixth as others dropped out.

Citroen had another miserable event. Craig Breen was on the cusp of the podium battle before damaging his suspension by running wide late on Saturday, which left him seventh.

His team-mate Mads Ostberg fell down the order with a power loss on Friday and made little progress before crashing on Sunday's opener.

Marijan Griebel ended up eighth overall in the old-spec WRC Citroen he was driving as part of the prize for his 2017 European Rally Championship U28 title.

Jan Kopecky produced a stunning drive to win WRC2 despite a puncture on Saturday dropping him back to ninth in class.

Helped by M-Sport's Eric Camilli suffering an alternator failure while leading the category, Kopecky battled back and retook first in class and ninth overall from Skoda team-mate Kalle Rovanpera on the penultimate stage.

Leading finishers

1Ott Tanak, M.JarveojaToyota Gazoo Racing WRTToyota3h03m36.9s
2Thierry Neuville, N.GilsoulHyundai Shell Mobis WRTHyundai39.2s
3Esapekka Lappi, J.FermToyota Gazoo Racing WRTToyota1m00.9s
4Sebastien Ogier, J.IngrassiaM-Sport Ford WRTFord1m34.5s
5Teemu Suninen, M.MarkkulaM-Sport Ford WRTFord2m02.9s
6Andreas Mikkelsen, A.JagerHyundai Shell Mobis WRTHyundai2m13.8s
7Craig Breen, S.MartinCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRTCitroen2m39.1s
8Marijan Griebel, A.RathMarijan GriebelCitroen10m41.2s
9Jan Kopecky, P.DreslerSkoda Motorsport IISkoda13m12.8s
10Kalle Rovanpera, J.HalttunenSkoda Motorsport IISkoda13m16.6s

Leading powerstage times

1Sebastien Ogier, J.IngrassiaM-Sport Ford WRTFord7m15.0s
2Ott Tanak, M.JarveojaToyota Gazoo Racing WRTToyota0.1s
3Esapekka Lappi, J.FermToyota Gazoo Racing WRTToyota4.0s
4Craig Breen, S.MartinCitroen Total Abu Dhabi WRTCitroen4.2s
5Thierry Neuville, N.GilsoulHyundai Shell Mobis WRTHyundai6.7s

Drivers' standings

1Thierry Neuville172
2Sebastien Ogier149
3Ott Tanak136
4Esapekka Lappi88
5Andreas Mikkelsen65
6Dani Sordo60
7Jari-Matti Latvala55
8Elfyn Evans52
9Mads Ostberg48
10Craig Breen47
11Kris Meeke43
12Teemu Suninen42
13Hayden Paddon34
14Sebastien Loeb15
15Pontus Tidemand11
16Jan Kopecky11
17Marijan Griebel4
17Bryan Bouffier4
19Gus Greensmith2
20Lukasz Pieniążek2
21Kalle Rovanpera1
22Pedro Heller1
22Yoann Bonato1
24Stephane Lefebvre1

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