Sébastien Ogier on the podium as Ott Tänak wins WRC's return in Estonia
© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
It's a hugely popular home victory for Hyundai's Ott Tänak over Craig Breen and Sébastien Ogier, as the World Rally Championship makes its long-awaited return at the fast and furious Rally Estonia.
Ott Tänak survived a late scare to deliver a popular home victory as the FIA World Rally Championship returned to action at the defending world champion's home race, Rally Estonia.
The home hero led most of the way to win the three-day gravel event by 22.2s in his Hyundai i20, as team-mate Craig Breen completed a 1–2 for Hyundai Motorsport and matched his career-best result, with Toyota's Sébastien Ogier finishing third, 26.9s behind Tänak.
Estonia was the 600th WRC round since the championship began in 1973 and marked the championship's return after a six-month pause.
Tänak was the pre-event favourite and after taking the lead early in Saturday's opening leg, the Estonian was never headed. His bid for a maiden victory with Hyundai almost came unstuck in the penultimate speed test, though. The Estonian swiped a bank with the rear of his i20, but the damage proved cosmetic only and he eased through the final special stage to secure his first victory for the team.
"To be in the bush and then bring it home, I'm happy to win with Hyundai for the first time," he said. “We had some previous know-how and if you race at home, even if you don't know some roads, you feel the support you get from the people around. It's a great feeling."
Tänak climbed to third in the WRC standings on the back of his win, 13 points behind leader Ogier. Second for an emotional Breen enabled the Hyundai squad to close the gap on Manufacturers' Championship leaders Toyota Gazoo Racing to five points.
Breen finished only 4.7s clear of Ogier, admitting his attempt to measure his pace in the final stage allowed the Frenchman to come closer than intended. It was however a hugely impressive performance from the Irishman, who's not a regular WRC starter.
Ogier headed a trio of Toyata Yaris finishers, satisfied that a podium keeps his hopes of a seventh world title on track, but disappointed he didn't have the grip to match Tänak's pace on Saturday afternoon.
Takamoto Katsuta rolled out of what would have been a career-best fifth and his error promoted the Ford Fiestas of Teemu Suninen and Esapekka Lappi to sixth and seventh, while Thierry Neuville's rally ended early after damaging his suspension and losing a wheel.
Thierry Neuville DNFs in Estonia
Round 5 of the FIA World Rally Championship takes crews to Rally Turkey, which is based in Marmaris, on September 18–20.