|Purple patch. Crest of a wave. Winning streak. The turn of phrase matters little. The important thing is the accurate description they provide of two men and one car. Right now Ott Tänak, Martin Järveoja and the Toyota Yaris WRC can do no wrong in the FIA World Rally Championship.
Toyota Gazoo Racing’s Estonian crew scored a third win of the season in Germany last week to nudge them ever closer to a fascinating 2018 title fight.
Here is all you need to know:
– Sunday’s success was their second consecutive ADAC Rallye Deutschland victory following their win in a Ford Fiesta WRC 12 months ago. It’s also their second win on the bounce following a similarly dominant drive at Rally Finland three weeks ago.
– Tänak is now Estonia’s joint most successful ever driver in the WRC, having equalled his friend and mentor Markko Märtin’s tally of five wins. The younger of the two said: “Markko’s always pushing me to do better, I don’t think he’ll be too worried about this.”
– Two rallies ago Tänak was 72 points behind series leader Thierry Neuville. Now? The gap’s exactly half of that at 36 points. And the difference to Sébastien Ogier in second place? That’s come down from 45 to 13. But still Tänak refuses to admit he’s engaged in the race to top the world. “I’m not thinking about that,” he said. “It’s still rally-by-rally. Now I focus on the next one in Turkey.”
– If Tänak won’t engage himself, Neuville’s more than happy to do it for him. The Belgian, who finished second in Germany, said: “Of course it’s a three-way fight. It always has been!” It’s hard to argue with the Hyundai star – there are still four rallies and a maximum of 120 points on offer.
– Ogier’s chances of a sixth world title remain in his own hands. If he wins the remaining four rallies and claims Power Stage success on each one, he’ll score 32 points more than his nearest rival, more than enough to close the current 23-point difference between himself and Neuville. For Tänak the job’s slightly more complicated – four wins and five-pointers everywhere would leave him four short of Neuville if the Belgian was second everywhere.
– Tänak’s title bid benefits from a man who knows all about winning world championships. Toyota Gazoo Racing team principal Tommi Mäkinen wore the drivers’ crown for four straight seasons while he was with Mitsubishi in the 1990s.
– Finn Mäkinen can see plenty of similarities between himself and his lead driver. The 54-year-old explained: “We have a very, very similar style when we drive. When I was competing, my style was to brake early and then drive the car through the corner; Ott is very early on throttle as well and that’s why he controls the car so nicely and is able to keep it balanced. He drives the car from the rear and never seems to really struggle with it. It helps that the style is similar for Ott and me, when he talks through what he wants from the car, I can understand and help him get it.”