Ott Tänak led home a Toyota one-two-three on Rally Germany and increased his championship lead to 35 points.
The Estonian came into Sunday’s final four stages with a 32.4 seconds lead over teammate Kris Meeke, reduced to 20.8 second by the end of the rally, after Thierry Neuville suffered a puncture on the first run through the 41km Panzerplatte stage that dropped him out of contention after continuing his battle with Tänak in the opening tests on Saturday.
Neuville’s demise enabled rally leader Tänak to relax throughout Sunday’s four stages and he went on to claim his third win in the last four events, although the Belgian did win the Power Stage to salvage five extra championship points.
Completing the podium lockout for Toyota was Jari-Matti Latvala, with the Finn sealing successive podiums for the first time this season.
Defending champion Sebastien Ogier was another man to suffer on the long military road stage as both Meeke and Latvala leapfrogged him. That and a puncture on Saturday’s final stage meant he was eighth overall overnight and the Frenchman could only manage a fifth fastest Power Stage time.
With Toyota dominating in Germany, the battle in the Manufacturer’s Standings between them and Hyundai could almost be closer after the two teams are now separated by just seven points. Things could have been worse for the Korean manufacturer, but Dani Sordo managed to recover to fourth overall after his gearbox woes on Friday evening.
Neuville completed the top five, 11.9 seconds behind his teammate and the pair finished ahead of Esapekka Lappi who leapfrogged Andreas Mikkelsen into sixth on the penultimate stage of the event and he held on by just four seconds to seal a solid result after his struggles so far in 2019.
With Ogier down in eighth, the leaderboard was completed by Gus Greensmith, who continued in the event despite hitting a tree that dropped him three minutes in lost time on Saturday and Takamoto Katsuta, who completed his maiden WRC event in tenth overall.
Teemu Suninen in the second M-Sport Ford did restart on Saturday after his electrical problems and he was able to secure a fine second place on the Power Stage behind winner Neuville.
WRC2 PRO went the way of Jan Kopecký after Skoda teammate Kalle Rovanperä went off twice in two successive stages on Saturday morning and although he restarted, he was all but out of contention for the class win.
The experienced Czech driver finished 1m19.1 seconds ahead of Eric Camilli in the new Ford Fiesta R5 with Rovanperä completing the top three.
WRC2 meanwhile saw a German one-two as Fabian Kreim took the class win ahead of Marijan Griebel, who got the better of Kajetan Kajetanowicz on the Power Stage after winning the final stage of the rally. The leading trio finished over four minutes ahead of their closest rival, Simone Tempestini.
The next round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Turkey, takes place between September 12-15.