Vodafone Rally de Portugal winner Ott Tänak has explained his late decision to throw away bonus points from the Wolf Power Stage in an effort to enhance his WRC title bid.
Tänak and championship leader Sébastien Ogier started Sunday’s closing Fafe speed test first and third in the rally standings. It meant they would finish the event tied on 137 points in the championship.
Whoever was faster in the Wolf Power Stage would claim more bonus points, lead the series and open the gravel tracks in the first leg of Rally Italia Sardegna (13 - 16 June), where road cleaning costs valuable time for the driver first in the start order.
Tänak was already assured of the event victory, and on course to win the stage and take a maximum five bonus points, when he lifted off his Toyota Yaris’ throttle in the final metres.
It allowed Ogier to go fastest and take maximum bonus points to retain the championship lead. The Frenchman will now shoulder the road sweeping burden on Sardinia’s slippery roads.
“At first, we were thinking about the strategy a little and we thought every point would be important at the end of the year,” Tänak explained.
“We were going to finish three ahead of Seb without the Power Stage points and I thought that I should be faster than him. The plan was to collect as many points as possible.”
The strategy changed when Kris Meeke crashed early in the Fafe test, promoting Ogier into third overall. A tie in the points was on the cards.
“Kris made his mistake and that changed everything. Seb was on the podium and we were going to be on the same points. I knew I needed to be a bit slower to avoid opening the road in Sardinia,” added the Estonian.
Tänak’s tactics hit a slight glitch when Thierry Neuville joined Ogier in squeezing ahead of him in the Power Stage, meaning he trails Ogier by two points rather than the planned one.
Tänak led from the third stage on Friday to win by 15.9sec with Ogier almost a minute behind in a Citroën C3. He held off fierce pressure team-mates Meeke and Jari-Matti Latvala, as well as brake and suspension problems on his Yaris to score a ninth career win.
“This is definitely one of the hardest wins I’ve taken. There have been plenty of hard weekends but to win this rally the way we did was tough,” he admitted.