The Estonian swapped the ADAC Rallye Deutschland lead with Neuville throughout Friday morning and although he ended the leg on top, he was unable to break clear of the dogged Belgian.
Their fight finally ended on Saturday afternoon when Neuville stopped to change a puncture on his Hyundai i20, leaving Tänak to ease to a third consecutive German victory in his Toyota Yaris.
The high risk of punctures prompted Tänak to state pre-event that his primary target was to steer clear of errors, and he admitted afterwards that second behind Neuville would have been acceptable in his quest for a maiden world title.
“On Friday we were normally one or two tenths faster per stage than he was but on Saturday it was actually the opposite and Thierry was actually a bit faster than I was,” he said.
“It was looking difficult, so I must say that if it had continued the same way, I would have accepted second place. Of course, I tried to be on my limit all the time without any mistake. In the end, we managed to do it.”
Victory enabled Tänak to increase his championship lead to 33 points over Neuville and he promised a similar approach to next month’s Rally Turkey (12 – 15 September), an event he won 12 months ago.
“Turkey is definitely the hardest event of the season. We can also say that last year, it was, in a way, our weakest event of the season. We really didn’t have performance and we were slow but in the end, we were smarter and had a one-two there.
“This year, we have been working really hard and I hope our performance is on a better level. Our team has been trying to prepare hard for this rough event. I still know this event needs the same approach, maybe, as we had here: to be consistent with no puncture,” he explained.