Tartu (Estonia) (AFP)

Converted advantage: Ott Tänak won "his" Rally Estonia - the country of origin of the driver Hyundai - to move up to third place in the World Championship (WRC), close to the leader Sébastien Ogier (Toyota), on the last step of the podium on Sunday.

In a season shortened from thirteen to seven rounds by the novel coronavirus pandemic, Tänak said it before this fourth event, the first since mid-March: "you will have to take the maximum number of points each time".

Taking advantage of playing at home, in front of 16,000 spectators who are committed to his cause, to catch up was the goal of the Estonian during the first of the WRC on his home soil.

The regional of the stage took control during the third special of the event, the second Saturday morning, and quickly widened the gap, before managing his lead.

"I already had a little experience," after winning in 2014, 2018 and 2019 in this rally, run at a lower level since 2010, recalled the Estonian after his success.

"And even if you don't know certain roads, you get the support from the people around and it's a great feeling."

This victory, the first of the year with his new Hyundai team, is more than welcome, his main opponents having already won (Ogier in Mexico, Thierry Neuville in Monte-Carlo, Elfyn Evans in Sweden), when he returned white copy at Rallye Monte-Carlo after an impressive accident.

He climbs up from fifth place in the drivers' standings 24 points behind Ogier to third at thirteen lengths and prolongs the fight to keep his world title acquired last year.

- "Good points" -

The Frenchman, faithful to the precepts that allowed him to be titled six times between 2013 and 2018, did not try to do too much on a field that he necessarily masters less well than his opponent and in conditions for which his Toyota Yaris was not ideally tuned.

"This podium is a good result, he comments. It was quite complicated on the roads, to be honest, and it was difficult to be really aggressive. But these are good points in the championship."

The Toyota driver was eight points ahead of his runner-up and British teammate Elfyn Evans, fourth Sunday, before this round.

The gap stabilizes at nine units.

Irishman Craig Breen (Hyundai), 2nd, completes the podium - his third in the WRC - and proves that he has retained his skills, even though he has not started, due to lack of space, since last season .

"The car gave me so much confidence all weekend, said the one who would like to find a steering wheel all year round. I had the impression of starting my career again. I have not forgotten. how to do it and I can't wait to start over and over again! "

The big loser of this round of recovery, after six months forced out, is Thierry Neuville (Hyundai), who scores no points for the second rally in a row, after Mexico in March, and falls back to fifth place at the pilots, 37 points from Ogier.

The Belgian broke a wheel at the start of the afternoon on Saturday, which ruined his hopes in the overall standings, then a mechanical problem "prevented him from driving fast during the Power Stage" on Sunday and therefore from taking some bonus points.

- See you in Turkey -

Another unlucky Frenchman Pierre-Louis Loubet, who was making his elite debut behind the wheel of a Hyundai after winning the WRC2 title (the lower category) last year, was let go by his management on Sunday morning, while evolving in ninth position.

The season continues quickly in Turkey, from September 18 to 20, before Italy from October 8 to 11 and Belgium - also unprecedented in the WRC - from November 19 to 22, provided the health crisis allows it.

Rally Estonia was due to enter the WRC calendar in 2021, after a promotional event in 2019, but the pandemic and the need to find new destinations precipitated this entry.

This round, contested over two full days, instead of three normally, took place in accordance with a strict health protocol but above all in the presence of spectators.

The race being disputed on the road, it was unimaginable to banish them.

These were therefore controlled by means of "passes" giving them access to certain areas limited to 1,000 people.

© 2020 AFP