Tanak in cautious mode ahead of tough Turkey test

Paris (AFP) –


Ott Tanak heads to Turkey this weekend with the world rally championship title tantalisingly within his touch.

The in-form Estonian has reeled off wins in four of the last five rallies in his trusty Toyota and is 33 points clear at the top of the standings.

With four rallies remaining, the 31-year-old is in the drivers' seat to become the first Estonian world champion. He would also be the first since 2004 not to answer to the name Sebastien.

That was the year Loeb won the first of his nine titles. Fellow Frenchman Ogier seamlessly continued the Sebastien stranglehold from 2013.

Ogier is running out of road in his quest for title number seven, with the Frenchman third in the battle for the 2019 crown, 40 points behind Tanak. Belgian Thierry Neuville is second, 33 points adrift.

Tanak arrives in Turkey for one of the least hospitable legs of the season, his confidence high, especially having won here last year, but retaining a keen sense of caution.

Awaiting him, and the rest of the WRC crew, are four days driving "on Turkey's twisty and unforgiving rock-strewn mountain roads, amid furnace-like heat" says the sport's official website.

Tanak told wrc.com: "This event is not one about pushing to the limit all the time, it's most important to find a rhythm which is suiting the conditions and then drive at that speed."

Given the difficulty of the task ahead Tanak has one advantage sleeve. While Neuville and Ogier must drive on the limit, the Estonian has the luxury of taking a more measured approach.

- 'Take more risks' -

"I think Seb and Thierry are the ones who need to take more risks than we do. If you want to win this rally, the most important thing is not to stop. Not stopping for a problem or a puncture in Turkey should guarantee you a good result," he noted.

"We won't push like mad to win this rally from the start, but I would like to be in that position on Sunday afternoon."

The 11th leg of the year kicks off with a sprint test on the streets of Marmaris on Thursday evening - the first two kilometres of 309.86km of hard driving spread over 17 stages.

After a terrible time last year, when he trailed in more than 20 minutes behind Tanak, Ogier is ready to adopt a different tactic.

"Last year's stages were without question the roughest I've ever had to face in my entire career."

"The crew that won were clearly not the quickest, so perhaps we'll need to adapt our approach this year, especially as we can no longer afford any mistakes in the championship."