The World Rally Championship (WRC) arrives in Catalonia this weekend (October 24th – 27th ) for the Rally of Spain 2019, the penultimate scale in the season’s Calendar. The Spanish landscapes will seve as the backdrop for the first deciding title battle.
For Ott Tänak (Toyota), who leads the standings with 28 points more than Sebastien Ogier (Citroën), the Rally of Spain 2019 will be the first opportunity to secure the title. His French rival, of course, will do anything in his power to prevent him from doing so. Ogier mustn’t let the Estonian score two points more than him, otherwise, everything will be lost.
A step below the leading gladiators is Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). Winning in Spain is the Belgian star’s only chance to keep his minimal options for glory alive until Australia. As well as the ‘fantastic three’, local hero, Dani Sordo (Hyundai) could play an important role at his home rally. The Spaniard, onboard his i20WRC and spurred on by his countrymen, will do is best not to disappoint.
Ogier: To carry the fight to Australia
French driver and title defendant, Sebastien Ogier, will confront a very delicate situation at the Rally of Spain 2019. This will be the first time that he could actually lose his winning chances against Tänak. His primary objective: to stop that from happening at all costs.
In order to do this, Ogier must finish before the Estonian or two points behind him at the most. In an ideal situation, he would be taking in Spain his fourth victory of the season. If he does so, he would stand a slightly better chance to defend the title at the Australian race.
Despite all odds being stuck against him, Spain has traditionally been kind to Ogier. He was second in Catalonia in his most recent visits (2017 and 2018), and has won there in three occasions (2013, 2014 and 2016).
Side by side with Ogier will be teammate Esapekka Lappi. The Finn has taken part in Rally of Spain in three occasions and his best performance has been a seventh place. His role this time, however, will be that of helping his team leader and of finishing ahead of Tänak and Neuville in order to rob them of some points in the standings.
Tänak: To keep Ogier behind
With a robust 26-point-advantage and just two more races to go, Tänak will confront the Rally of Spain 2019 with caution. Ott will focus his efforts on keeping a close eye on his main adversary while avoiding any unnecessary risks.
The driver form Kärla is very aware of the fact that he has never had a victory in Catalonia. He only managed a sixth position in 2018 and a third a year before, his best performance to date. At least, Tänak can count on the assistance of 2017 winner, the Norwegian Kris Meeke.
The Finn Jari-Matti Latvala will as usual, complete the line-up of Tommi Makinen’s team. All three teammates and their i20WRCs will also attempt to increase Toyota’s 9-point lead in the manufacturers’ standings.
Hyundai and Neuville: Both titles still up for grabs
The Rally of Spain 2019 is going to be key in the unfolding of the WRC season and so Hyundai will be bringing out its golden line-up for the occasion. For team leader, Thierry Neuville, this is a deciding race in his fight for the crown. His disadvantaged position, 41 points behind Tänak and 23 points behind Ogier, make him the weakest of all three title hopefuls.
In order to keep his remote chances alive, he must conquer Spain, something he has never achieved before. He must also rely on a mistake from his main opponents. His most recent result, fourth in 2018, and his best overall, third in 2016, do not make for a very optimistic forecast.
His allies, however, are la crème de la creme. On the one hand, Sébastien Loeb, the king of Spain, with a total of nine victories (2005-2012, 2018); and on the other, Dani Sordo, who will be cheered on by his home fans and with the morale through the roof after his contract renewal for 2020 and his inclusion in the Australian Rally. The Three Musketeers will also be fighting to shorten the nine-point distance that separates them from leader Toyota in the constructors’ standings.
Images ‘Rally of Spain 2019′: WRC.com