Toyota’s Ott Tänak is the new World Rally Champion 2019 after finishing second in the Rally Spain 2019, penultimate race of the Calendar, behind winner, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai). A sensational Dani Sordo finished in third place just four-tenths of a second behind the Estonian driver.
With this, his first world title, the driver from Kärla puts an end to the 15 year-long French reign of the WRC, six years of which have belonged to Sebastien Ogier. Tänak has formed a perfect bond with his Yaris WRC this season. Together, man and machine have accrued a total of six wins and nine podiums.
Despite not being able to stop Tänak’s coronation, Neuville has had an extraordinary last day in Spain, taking all four of the Sunday’s specials. Also, on Saturday as the asphalt arrived at the Catalan appointment, the driver from Saint Vith has dominated with an iron fist. His resurgence, however, comes too late in the competition as Neuville hadn’t had a win since Argentina at the end of April.
On the other hand, this weekend’s result is a giant step for Hyundai’s towards the team title. After their first (Neuville), third (deaf) and fourth (Loeb) positions at the Iberian Peninsula, the Asian team has opened considerable ground (18 points) from their Toyota adversaries.
Saturday: Neuville leads, Sordo is second
Upon leaving the ground and stepping onto the tarmac this Saturday, Neuville climbed up to the top of the race standings. The Hyundai leader asserted his thirst for victory in Catalonia. He finished the day with a 21.5-second advantage over a sensational Sordo.
Always with the victory in the horizon, and thanks to a very consistent performance, he kept Ott Tának at bay by 3.1 seconds. At that point, however, it was clear that Tänak was going to secure the title if nothing unexpected got on his way. The Belgian driver started hard on board his i20 Coupe WRC.
In the initial section (SS7, Savallà 1) he had his first scratch out of three that day. In such an authoritative way, Neuville took command of the race, a position that he would maintain during the rest of the tests. Sordo, on the other hand, immune to the strong pressure from Tänak, made a good show of his excellent state of form and speed, qualities that have earned him the renewal with the team from Alzenau for 2020.
Loeb’s performance, On the contrary, suffered an unexpected decline. The nine-time World Rally Champion and last year’s winner in Spain, fell from first to fourth place, losing 25.2 seconds to his Belgian teammate.
The crown defendant, who was also hoping for his tenth victory in Spain, finished at only 6 tenths of a second from Tänak’s third place. The question remained at the end of Saturday if the Estonian would play it safe by holding on to his third position or if, on the contrary, he would go on attack mode. In any case, Tänak was about to end the Ogier 6-campaign-long dynasty and the 15-year -long French hegemony of the WRC.
Friday: Hyundai monopolised the podium
An impressive show of strength by Hyundai on Catalan land. The team from Alzenau took the top three places in the race standings, completely neutralizing their rival’s efforts. After a spectacular last stage (SS6), Loeb removed Sordo from the first place.
The Spaniard, who was surpassed by his two teammates in those final kilometres, went to bed on Friday in third place, with a disadvantage of 5.6 seconds. Between them was Neuville, 1.7 seconds behind the most successful driver in history.
Unaware of this civil war, the leader of Toyota and of the championship standings, Ott Tänak, finished fifth, 21.7 seconds behind the French. Despite his result, his title chances were reinforced thanks to the problems suffered by his main rival for glory. Sebastien Ogier lost more than 4 minutes, falling to the seventeenth place.
His C3WRC was left without power steering after a hydraulic tube got loose on the second test and just as he was leading the race. It was farewell to his winning chances and to his dreams of a seventh consecutive victory. Meanwhile, the other two Yaris WRC of Meeke and Latvala finished fourth (+ 13s) and sixth (+ 30.1s), respectively.
Images ‘Rally Spain 2019’: Toyota.