Ott Tanak becomes the first Estonian to win a WRC title, earning Toyota Gazoo Racing their fifth-ever world title after Didier Auriol's win in 1994.
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT's Ott Tanak & co-driver Martin Jarveoja scripted history as they secured their maiden FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with a hard-fought second-place finish in this year's Rally Spain (RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally De Espana). With this, Tanak & Jarveoja become the first Estonians to achieve the feat and have earned Toyota its fifth WRC title. Toyota's title drought came to an end after a long wait of 15 years, with their last championship win scored in 1994 by Didier Auriol (Toyota Celica Turbo 4WD ST185). Tanak has also put to an end the 15-year French domination by the sport’s most successful drivers, Sebastien Loeb & Sebastien Ogier.
Meanwhile, Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT's Thierry Neuville & Nicolas Gilsoul scooped up a win at this year's Rally Spain and their teammates, Dani Sordo & Carlos Del Barrio, clinched the final spot on the podium. Hyundai's remaining pair, Sebastien Loeb & Daniel Elena, also bounced back with a fourth-place finish. With all three Hyundai drivers securing a finish in the top-five, the team has strengthened its hold on this year's constructors' championship that is very much alive & will conclude at the forthcoming final round of this year's WRC in Australia. Currently, Hyundai sits atop the constructor leaderboard with 380 points, 18 points clear off defending champions Toyota.
As many may be aware, Rally Spain is considered to be the only true mixed-surface round on the entire WRC calendar. Day 1 consisted of six stages (SS1-SS6) on gravel, while the remaining two days & eleven stages ran on asphalt. Day 1 came to an end after Hyundai firmly held the top three positions after SS6. Toyota drivers, however, maintained constant pressure in fourth, fifth & sixth. Tanak, who was fifth overall after the end of Day 1, found good pace on the asphalt stages of Day 2 and managed to secure four consecutive stage wins that promoted him to third overall by the end of Day 2, 24.6 seconds behind leader Neuville. Loeb, who finished on top after Day 1, struggled for pace on the asphalt stages and as a result, dropped down to fourth.
A determined run in the final La Mussara 2 Power Stage on Day 3 saw Tanak & Jarveoja secure stage victory by an impressive 3.6 seconds that not only earned them five bonus points but also pushed them up to second place in the overall final classification to take the championship title. As for Tanak's closest rival & defending champion Sebastien Ogier, the Frenchman's hopes for a seventh crown came to an end after power-steering issues on the opening day of the rally. He crossed the finish line in the sole-surviving Citroën C3 in eighth place.
While Tanak may have won the driver's title, the constructors' championship still remains to be decided at Rally Australia, scheduled to run from 14 - 17 November.