Ott Tänak takes a 22-point lead into Rally Germany this weekend, round 10 of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship and is looking to secure his third successive victory on the event.
The Toyota GAZOO Racing driver has won three of the last four events on the calendar that has helped him build up a substantial lead over title rivals Sébastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville.
With the Estonian perhaps now looking at scoring a string of strong results rather than outright wins, this could give Neuville in particular, who won the last tarmac event on the Tour de Corse, the chance to claim another victory as the championship returns to asphalt for the first time since March.
Both him and Ogier need to start clawing points back on the championship leader with only four events left after this weekend and the Belgian will be looking to build on his shock win in a TCR Germany race at the Nürburgring last weekend in his first ever touring car race.
The event this weekend has three days of different types of stages and with that, different challenges. After an opening test tonight, tomorrow sees the teams use the same route as 12 months ago in the vineyards in Mosel.
Saturday sees a changed itinerary from previous years, which for 2019 uses stages in the Saarland area followed by tests in the Baumholder military complex and the feared Hinkelstein kerbstones that have ended many driver’s rallies in previous years.
The final day of action sees four more stages including the crucial Power Stage, with the event totalling 344km of stage miles across 19 stages.
The battle for fourth in the Drivers Standings could have a different leader after this weekend with Elfyn Evans again forced to miss the event on medical grounds, with Gus Greensmith the man to again step in for the Welshman in his first tarmac event in the Fiesta WRC.
This gives Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished strongly on Rally Finland last time out, Teemu Suninen in the second M-Sport Fiesta WRC and Kris Meeke, who will be wanting to show he has the pace for a strong result following a retirement in Finland, all the opportunity to take a hold of the position in the championship.
Suninen could be a dark horse for this weekend – he had a fine top five finish on the Tour de Corse when the championship last used tarmac and he’s regularly been near the top of the timesheets in several rounds of the 2019 season.
Dani Sordo in the third Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC is something of a tarmac specialist and again could be a driver to watch. He won his first WRC event here back in 2013 and the Spaniard will be hoping to help teammate Neuville in his championship push.
Esapekka Lappi and Jari-Matti Latvala finally kickstarted their seasons on their home event with both drivers finishing on the podium. Latvala especially knows his job when it comes to scoring points for the rest of the season and the Toyota man will be doing all he can to help his team claim it’s first Manufacturer title.
A fourth Yaris WRC will be in action this weekend as Takamoto Katsuta, a WRC2 regular, gets his chance at the sport’s highest level. The Japanese driver has competed on several non-world events in the car this year, but Germany will be his maiden WRC appearance. He enters in a Tommi Mäkinen Racing Yaris.
WRC2 PRO/WRC – Rovanperä Looking to Extend Lead
Kalle Rovanperä leads the WRC2 PRO category by 38 points going into the German event this weekend ahead of Mads Ostberg as the pair again look to battle it out in the class.
With Greensmith again stepping up to the WRC class for Rally Germany, this gives Eric Camilli another opportunity to show what the new MK8 Fiesta R5 can do as it makes its asphalt debut this weekend. Jan Kopecký is the fourth and final PRO entry in a Skoda Fabia R5 Evo.
As well as the PRO entered M-Sport machine, ‘Pedro’ enters a new car ran by the Cumbrian team in the WRC2 class. Interestingly at the time of writing a third Fiesta has been spotted in Germany, believed to be driven by Adrien Fourmaux, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Both WRC2 championship leader Benito Guerra and second placed Pierre-Louis Loubet miss out this weekend, giving Nikolay Gryazin the perfect opportunity to move up the standings.
Rhys Yates returns to WRC2 action in Germany, with a fresh livery aboard his Fabia R5, while a regular European Rally Championship battle between Gryazin and Kajetan Kajetanowicz is set to be reignited this weekend as the Pole drives a Volkswagen Polo R5. A total of 15 drivers enter in WRC2, with German drivers Fabian Kreim and Marijan Griebel both men to watch on their home event.
Rally Germany begins this weekend and continues throughout this weekend, with daily updates on The Checkered Flag.