Ott Tänak won his first FIA World Rally Championship after his second-place finish behind title rival Thierry Neuville on Sunday afternoon.
Estonian Tänak’s runner up place added to by his dominating Power Stage win now means he has a 36-point lead with just one round remaining and so becomes only the third different winner of the championship alongside Sebastien Loeb and Ogier since Petter Solberg’s title win back in 2003.
He went into the final four stages knowing that he needed to finish no lower than one place behind Neuville in the Power Stage to win the title and he went to leapfrog the Belgian’s Hyundai teammate Dani Sordo on the final stage to steal second place on the mixed-surface event.
Tänak said on his title win: “It feels good! It’s difficult to say the pressure I felt this weekend – it was next level. To manage all this and get through it has been the target of my life. When you are on the verge of this you can no longer imagine it.”
Rally winner Neuville ended the event 17.2 seconds ahead of the championship winner and did all he could do keep the title race alive until the season-ending Rally Australia next month. Sebastien Ogier, who had been Tänak’s nearest rival heading to Spain, ended the weekend eighth after a hydraulic failure on Friday lost him four minutes of lost time.
Sordo meanwhile had to settle for third on his home event after Tänak’s late push on the Power Stage. The Spaniard tried his best to hold off the newly crowned champion, with the pair ahead of Sebastien Loeb in the third Hyundai by 36.3 seconds at the end of Sunday.
A strong result in Spain for Hyundai has also helped them increase their lead in the Manufacturers standings to 18 points over Toyota as they look to claim their first teams championship title.
Jari-Matti Latvala ended the event fifth and scored a solid points haul for the Japanese manufacturer after Kris Meeke’s retirement yesterday, with Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen finishing ahead of Ogier in the two M-Sport Ford Fiesta’s. Suninen survived a late scare with a wall on the Power Stage which caused him to have a half spin and damage the rear of the car.
Mads Østberg sealed the WRC2 PRO win in the Citroen C3 R5 by a huge 54.7 seconds ahead of Skoda pair Jan Kopecký and Kalle Rovanperä with the double podium enough for Skoda to claim the team’s championship after Rovanepra’s title win on Wales Rally GB last time out. Gus Greensmith completed the final four stages to finish fourth in class.
WRC2 saw late drama on the final day as behind runaway leader Eric Camilli, also in a similar C3 to Østberg, Pierre-Louis Loubet got stuck on a bank on stage 15 that dropped him from second to fourth in class before then losing out to Ole-Christian Vieby on the Power Stage.
The lost positions now means the French driver has a three-point lead over Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who took third this weekend but with the Polish driver not taking part in Australia however, its Benito Guerra who looks set to fight it out with him for the title.
The final round of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship, Rally Australia, takes place between November 14-17.