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 on Saturday morning.
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.
“I don’t see any reason why we should not be able to fight for it, so we will fight for it. We need to keep winning if we want to win the championship,” said the 29-year-old.
“Everything was done on Friday with a perfect tyre choice and perfect run in tricky conditions. After this we controlled our lead and winning our first asphalt event feels good.”
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 last night after breaking a damper, but regained it this morning.
Evans rued his choice of soft compound tyres for today’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.
1. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Ford Fiesta 2hr 57min 31.7sec
2. A Mikkelsen / A Jaeger NOR Citroën C3 + 16.4sec
3. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Ford Fiesta + 30.4sec
4. J Hänninen / K Lindström FIN Toyota Yaris + 1min 49.2sec
5. C Breen / S Martin IRL Citroën C3 + 2min 01.5sec
6. E Evans / D Barritt GBR Ford Fiesta + 2min 03.4sec
FIA World Rally Championship (round 10 of 13):
1. S Ogier 177pts
2. T Neuville 160pts
3. O Tänak 144pts