With a commanding lead of more than four minutes starting the final day in Trier, Tanak knew that providing he avoided the mistakes and the pitfalls that had accounted for a number of his rivals then first place would be his.
The Ford Fiesta driver duly prevailed by a huge margin of 5m38.6s with Nasser Al-Attiyah second and Frigyes Turan completing a Fiesta top-three in third.
“It’s been a really good weekend with no mistakes from our side or the car,” said Tanak, whose MM Motorsport Fiesta was co-driven by Markko Martin. “It was our first event in a Super 2000 car on asphalt so that was really nice. I didn’t need to take any risks today and now it’s possible for the championship but we have to try.”
Tanak’s win means he has trimmed Hanninen’s overall championship lead to 18 points with three rounds remaining.
Hanninen, in a Red Bull Skoda, had been leading only to crash out on Friday’s final test. He restarted under SupeRally regulations on day two and fought back to fourth and 12 championship points after setting the pace on three stages on Sunday.
“We made a stupid mistake but we have got some points on my first time here,” said Hanninen. “The rally was more difficult than I expected - I have to be much more clever when I come back next year.”
Like Hanninen, Al-Attiyah was also competing in Germany for the first time. Indeed it was the Qatari’s first appearance on asphalt in the WRC. “I am really happy with this result because it has been a very difficult rally for us,” said Al-Attiyah, who lost time with a gearbox fault and a broken driveshaft on day two. “We have got some really good experience with this result.”
After heroically completing Saturday’s second Arena Panzerplatte test with no powersteering, Frigyes Turan was rewarded with his second SWRC podium of 2011 to complete a successful weekend for Markko Martin’s MM Motorsport operation.
“I made a mistake on the first stage this morning but we are very happy with this result,” said the Hungarian, who was forced to complete the Power Stage with a front-left puncture. “The season is going better than I hoped and we have two more rallies left that I know.”
Estonian teenager Karl Kruuda restarted his Skoda under SupeRally on Sunday and finished fifth having been slowed by a broken rear differential on stage 15 and a spin on stage 17. Martin Prokop completed the top six in his Fiesta after losing four minutes changing a puncture on Sunday’s opening test.
Local hero Hermann Gassner Jr brought his Red Bull Skoda to the finish in seventh, despite a broken gear lever. Bernard Sousa finished eighth after going off the road on stage 18 and getting stuck for 14 minutes. Wildcard entrant Felix Herbold completed the SWRC finishers in ninth.
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"...now it’s possible for the championship but we have to try.”