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Tanak piles pressure on Ogier in race to world rally crown

By AFP
media Toyota driver Ott Tanak of Estonia must win in Australia and claim maximum bonus points in Sunday's Power Stage finale to earn a shot at a maiden title AFP

Tenacious Ott Tanak mastered the gravel to take the lead at Rally Australia Saturday and pile pressure on Sebastien Ogier in the race to be crowned world champion.

Going into the final rally of the season at Coffs Harbour, Estonian Tanak lagged 23 points behind the Frenchman and only has an outside chance of preventing him clinching a sixth world title.

He must win in Australia and claim maximum bonus points in Sunday's Power Stage finale to earn a shot at a maiden title.

The Toyota Yaris ace did all he could, delivering a series of blistering runs on the dusty roads. He has won six stages at the event to hold a 21.9-second lead over teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.

Ogier is currently sixth, 1min 44.8secs behind, with his nearest world title challenger Thierry Neuville -- only three points separate them -- in eighth.

"I am doing my best and doing everything I can," said Tanak. "It is not the easiest of conditions, but consistent.

"I know Seb (Ogier) well, he's a smart guy, but we'll target our job and you never know what can happen."

Ogier, who won in Australia in 2014 and 2015, knows all he needs to do is stay ahead of Neuville and keep his current position on Sunday, which means no risks.

"The main goal is to stay ahead of Thierry," said the Ford Fiesta driver.

"Right now I am in a position with enough points, so the target is to stay where we are. We don't need to take any risks."

Hyundai's Neuville gave his all but damaged suspension after a brush with a bank reminded him that retirement would extinguish his dwindling title hopes and he reined in his aggression.

"Tomorrow we wait and see. Being champion will be difficult but we won't give up until it is finished," said the Belgian.

The manufacturers' title is also on the line in Australia.

Toyota Gazoo Racing leads with 331 points, but with 43 available for a one-two finish both Hyundai Shell Mobis (319 points) and M-Sport Ford (306 points) can still snatch the honours.

If Toyota's Tanak, Latvala and Esapekka Lappi hold their top-five positions, they will supply the Japanese giant with its first crown since 1999.

 
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