The home hero was fastest on all but one of the day’s eight stages to bring his Hyundai i20 home with a 13.7sec advantage over Toyota Gazoo Racing runner Kalle Rovanperä.
Virtually all the WRC’s big names grabbed the opportunity for seat time on fast gravel roads ahead of next week’s FIA World Rally Championship post-lockdown restart at Rally Estonia (4 - 6 September).
Tänak was in control of the Võru-based rally from the beginning, adding to his i20 learning curve on fast gravel following victory on the Viru Rally last month.
Despite his second consecutive win at home, the world champion admitted there was more to come from both himself and the car when it comes to the fourth round of this year’s WRC in Tartu next week.
WRC Onboard of the Week - Esapekka Lappi
“This has been the most competitive rally I’ve had [with Hyundai] so far,” said Tänak. “We’ve been working on the car for a long time, but now it’s time for us to make the car and ourselves sharper.”
Hyundai’s delight at what could be seen as something of a breakthrough victory for the i20 WRC – given the car’s previous record on fast gravel rallies – was tempered slightly by Thierry Neuville’s fifth place.
The Belgian struggled with his pace notes and was never consistently comfortable with the car. He ended almost 2min 30sec behind his Estonian team-mate after a water pump problem incurred time penalties.
“It’s been a tough event,” he said at the finish, “but we’ve tried lots of different settings and that’s good for Rally Estonia.”
Teenage Finn Rovanperä led the Toyota trio and was the only driver other than Tänak to win a stage.
“It was good to be back in the car again, it’s been a long time away,” said the runner-up. “I was sad not to be the fastest Toyota on every stage, but this was good. I’m learning – this is only my second gravel rally with the car, but we made good progress today.
World championship leader Sébastien Ogier was third and pleased with his shakedown for Estonia’s WRC debut. “With the top five drivers in the championship all here, it was good to be here too. The car felt good and it’s been a good day,” he said.
Team-mate Elfyn Evans was less pleased. The Welshman ran third before crashing spectacularly on the fifth of eight stages. His Yaris was wrecked in what the Rally Sweden winner reckoned was a sixth-gear crash.
M-Sport Ford’s Esapekka Lappi finished a distant fourth, but pointed out he should be faster once he’s back aboard a factory Fiesta WRC. The Finn was driving a privately-entered JanPro Racing car.
WRC 3 joint leader Jari Huttunen pipped fellow i20 driver Nikolay Gryazin to be the top R5 competitor in seventh. The Russian finished 3.3sec behind Huttunen.
Eerik Pietarinen was a further 7.7sec back in ninth in a Skoda Fabia, with WRC 2 driver Ole Christian Veiby fourth in the category and 10th overall.
M-Sport Ford’s Teemu Suninen drove an R5 Fiesta and was sixth in the category, despite an opening stage puncture and power issues at junctions during the afternoon.
Photographs by Ray Põder and Henri Rump