The 23-year-old Estonian led throughout the event in his uprated specification Ford Fiesta S2000 prepared by Markko Martin’s MM Motorsport concern.
Starting the final day with a lead of almost 50 seconds, Tanak could have been forgiven for adopting a conservative approach on the closing four stages alongside co-driver Kuldar Sikk. Instead he wisely chose to maintain his strong pace to the finish.
“When you back off you lose your concentration,” said Tanak, a former Pirelli Star Driver. “I backed off a bit too much on the penultimate stage and was too steady and dropped 20 seconds. After that I realised I was right to go hard all day.”
Tanak finished up 26.7s clear of Juho Hanninen in a Red Bull Skoda Fabia Super 2000. Hanninen started the season as the title favourite and Tanak admitted that beating the Finn had represented a big achievement.
“It was very important for me to beat Juho and this is a big result for me,” said Tanak. “It was tough to find the right balance but my car was very good and my team did a great job all weekend. I’m very happy.”
Hanninen admitted his rival couldn’t be caught although his capture of second place keeps him firmly in the title race, four points behind Tanak.
“I tried to put some pressure on Ott yesterday but it wasn’t enough,” said Hanninen. “Today we played it safe as there was no point taking risks because Ott was too fast. We are very happy with our performance though and we set some good stage times. These 18 points are very good for the championship.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah reached the finish in third overall having moved ahead of Martin Prokop when the Czech was handed a time penalty for failing to start stage three on his allocated time. However, the event stewards overturned the decision and removed the four-minute punishment, which put Prokop third and Al-Attiyah down to fourth.
For Prokop, the decision brought some welcome respite after his Fiesta caught fire on no fewer than four occasions during the rally, including on the penultimate stage. His elevation back up to third means he shares the title lead with Prokop heading to the next round in Greece in June.
Al-Attiyah said: “It’s a shame because I think we could have won this rally without the problems. We’ve started the year badly so this result is good for us. Now I want to prepare for Greece and get a good result.”
Hermann Gassner Jr took fifth after a steady drive in his Red Bull Skoda with erstwhile championship leader Karl Kruuda sixth. Frigyes Turan, from Hungary, claimed seventh but Jordan Rally winner Bernardo Sousa stopped on the road section heading to stage 17 when his Fiesta suffered alternator failure.
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“It was very important for me to beat Juho and this is a big result for me"