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Ott Tanak wins Rally of Germany, Neuville holds title lead

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Trier (Germany) (AFP)

Estonian driver Ott Tanak won the Rally of Germany on Sunday as championship leader Thierry Neuville and closest challenger Sebastien Ogier remained locked in the race for the title.

Neuville, who started the rally with a 21-point lead, finished second in his Hyundai to pick up 19 points while reigning world champion Ogier was fourth in his Ford Fiesta and collected 17 points, including five as a bonus for winning the final Power Stage.

"It was a challenging weekend so to finish second shows we did our job," said Belgian Neuville, now 23 points clear.

"I managed to slightly increase my lead in the drivers' championship, which was the aim. The battle for the title is going to be tight until the very end."

It was Tanak's third victory of the season after the rallies of Argentina and Finland.

The 30-year-old Estonian, in third overall 36 points behind, started strongly, taking the lead on the first stage on Thursday.

Ogier briefly grabbed first after the second stage on Friday morning but Tanak was imperious the rest of the way and maintained a lead of between 12 and 14 seconds ahead of his nearest challengers.

Frenchman Ogier almost lost everything on Saturday when he suffered a puncture on the rough concrete of the famous Panzerplatte tank range at the Baumholder military camp. He fell to ninth while the more cautious Neuville was in fourth.

But on a tumultuous final morning the two men who started Sunday battling for second -- Dani Sordo (Hyundai) and Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) -- both dropped out. The Spaniard crashed off the road and the Finn suffered a transmission failure and Neuville and Ogier took advantage.

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