Estonian hotshot Tänak triumphs on home ERC thriller
Ott Tänak has made it six winners from seven rounds of this season with an emphatic victory on Rally Estonia – five years after his legendary team boss Markko Märtin won the high-speed gravel event.
Sun 20.07.14, 8:08AM
With his rapid progress followed every step of the way by thousands of enthusiastic fans, Tänak led from the start in his M-M Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5, which he shared with co-driver and fellow Estonian Raigo Mölder. The 26-year-old Tänak was fastest on 10 of the 14 gravel stages and was also quickest on the auto24-Tartu City street stage in front of 30,000 spectators.
But it wasn’t entirely straightforward for Tänak who had to overcome a few minor technical issues, including a fault pop-off valve, to triumph in the stunning Estonian countryside ahead of rapid Russian ERC Production Car Cup winner Alexey Lukyanuk and Timmu Kõrge, who made it two Estonian M-M drivers on the podium. Lukyanuk’s heroic performance earned him the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.
“We managed to do a good pace all the rally,” said Tänak, who is the new ERC Gravel Master. “Somehow we got a good lead after Friday so today was about trying to enjoy and stay concentrated. The organisers have done a perfect job although it’s not so easy to do a big event like this in a small place like Estonia. But they made a big event with lots of spectators.”
Behind Kõrge, Rainer Aus finished a strong fourth in a Lancer with Finland’s Esapekka Lappi extending his ERC title advantage in fifth place for ŠKODA Motorsport. Karl Kruuda (Peugeot 208T16) took sixth with German Sepp Wiegand seventh in a second factory Fabia.
Estonian Kruuda, 21, had been a favourite for a podium prior to the start but a power issue dropped him out of contention on Friday’s opening leg. Like Lappi, Wiegand struggled to match the pace of the turbo runners in his normally aspirated machine but still scored important ERC points.
Roland Murakas finished eighth, Frenchman Sébastien Chardonnet ninth in a Citroën DS3 R5, while Kristian Sohlberg completed the top 10. Chardonnet and Sohlberg were using the event to prepare for the world championship round in Finland later this month. Czech Jaromír Tarabus, who ran first on the road on both legs, finished 11th on his return to ERC action.
Siim Plangi, who was making his debut in a Peugeot 208T16, started day two 5.6s behind Kruuda but a broken clutch and puncture in the afternoon dropped him back before he rolled into retirement on the final stage. Raul Jeets and co-driver Andrus Toom also crashed out in the closing stages, going off the road on the penultimate run. After being attended to at the scene by medical crews they were taken to hospital in Tartu for further checks. Robert Consani retired with engine failure on Friday’s penultimate stage.