The Estonian’s triumph in Germany, where Hanninen languished in fourth after crashing out of the lead on Friday’s final stage, means he trails his Finnish rival by 18 points with two asphalt rounds remaining.
Tanak, driving a Ford Fiesta S2000, controlled the German event from the second day onwards, belying his lack of asphalt experience to clinch his first win on a sealed-surface round of the series. Tanak admits, however, that repeating that victory on the final two rounds could be tough.
“It’s good to get experience of driving this car on Tarmac,” said Tanak, whose first taste of the Fiesta S2000 on asphalt came in a 60-kilometre test ahead of the start of the Trier-based event. “The car felt good, we had no problems at all, but in Spain, the roads are quite different to these. It’s good for the championship to win, but we are only looking at this one rally at a time. It’s not so much at home for me to be driving on asphalt, I would feel more at home if one of the last two rallies was an event like Finland rather than the Tarmac in France and Spain.”
Despite his win, Tanak feels he’ll need to further up his game next time out in France. He added: “We will need to get faster for France, but this is a good preparation for that event - this is one of the most difficult asphalt rallies.”
Hanninen’s German event didn’t go completely to plan after he dropped out of the lead when he knocked a rear wheel off his Red Bull Skoda Fabia on the final stage on day one.
“I’m putting Germany behind me,” said the 30-year-old. “I was very disappointed with that event. I was upset with myself for my pointless error, which cost me victory. The good thing is that we kept going and we managed to make fourth place to limit the damage. We’re now looking ahead to France and Spain where we will be trying to solidify our position in the lead of the championship.”
Ford man Martin Prokop is another driver battling for this year’s title, but his aspirations were also hit when he went off the road in Germany. He is 22 points off Hanninen.
Karl Kruuda (Skoda), Bernardo Sousa (Ford) and Hanninen’s Red Bull team-mate Hermann Gassner Jr all have a shot at the SWRC title going into the penultimate round, Rallye de France Alsace, which takes place from 29 September-2 October.