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Tanak and Ogier take their duel to the tarmac in Corsica

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Paris (AFP)

The World Rally Championships hits the road in Corsica this weekend with one of the few events on the calendar raced exclusively on asphalt.

That suits championship leader Ott Tanak who will have Sebastien Ogier in his tyre tracks from the start.

"Being first on the road there as championship leader should be a good thing," Tanak said on his Toyota team's website. "This is the best place to be on asphalt where the road is cleanest."

The Estonian won the second rally of the season, on snow and gravel in Sweden, and is four points ahead of Frenchman Ogier, who won the other two, on asphalt and gravel in Monte Carlo and gravel in Mexico.

Ogier edged Tanak in last year's "rally of 10,000 corners", but the course has been largely remodelled with only two stages surviving from last season.

"It adds a bit of stress and adrenaline to the race," said Ogier on the Citroen website. "It can lead to there being bigger gaps than usual. When the stages are new for everyone, obviously the difference comes from who does a very good job during recce."

The race starts in Porto Vecchio in the southeast of the island on Thursday and covers 14 stages over 347.51 kilometres before ending in Calvi, in the northwest on Sunday.

Hyundai will challenge with two former winners: Belgian Thierry Neuville, who won in Corsica in 2017 and is a close third in the standings, and nine-time world champions Sebastien Loeb, who has won the race four times.

"Corsica is a challenging event, with lots of corners," Neuville told the Hyundai website. "The recce is very long and demanding, but once you are in the car and can find a good flow... one from which you can find a good sensation."

Loeb said he was looking forward to racing on French soil saying it's "a beautiful event, with stunning landscape close to the sea, and magnificent island setting".

"It's a wonderful place for rallying and as the French round of the championship it is a very special atmosphere."

WRC driver standings

1. Ott Tanak (EST/Toyota) 65 pts, 2. Sebastien Ogier (FRA/Citroen) 61, 3. Thierry Neuville (BEL/Hyundai) 55, 4. Kris Meeke (GBR/Toyota) 35, 5. Elfyn Evans (GBR/M-Sport Ford) 28, 6. Esapekka Lappi (FIN/Citroen) 20, 7. Sebastien Loeb (FRA/Hyundai) 18, 8. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN/Toyota) 14, 9. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR/Hyundai) 12

WRC constructor standings

1. Toyota 86 pts, 2. Citroen 78, 3. Hyundai 77, 4. M-Sport Ford 45

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