Toyota’s Ott Tanak has sealed the 2019 World Rally Championship title by finishing runner-up to Thierry Neuville in the penultimate round in Spain.
Sebastien Loeb led Hyundai team-mates Neuville and Dani Sordo at the end of Friday’s gravel running, at which time Tanak was just over half a minute back from the top three in fifth position.
Tanak’s team-mate, Kris Meeke, broke up the Hyundai one-two-three early on Saturday’s tarmac stages before hitting a fence.
Instead, it was Tanak himself who made up ground on the Hyundais with four of the last five stage wins on the Saturday.
While Neuville held a 21.5s lead ahead of the final day, Tanak was only 3.1s away from second placed Sordo and 0.6s in front of Loeb.
Sordo moved to 5.8s up on Tanak ahead of the Power Stage, off the back of two Sunday stage wins.
However, the Estonian blitzed the final stage, winning that by 3.6s over M-Sport Ford’s Elfyn Evans, to claim second overall by 0.4s from Sordo.
“The pressure this weekend has been on another level,” said Tanak.
“This has been the target of my life. I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes, but still I had to do a good result to make it happen.
“So it was massive pressure and it was difficult to get used to it at the beginning. But in the end I was somehow able to relax and do my normal driving.
“I’ve had to overcome a lot in my career, so it’s nice to finally achieve this. Thank you to the team; they have done a great job.”
Neuville finished third in the Power Stage to at least seal a rally victory while Sebastien Ogier, the other title contender, suffered a hydraulic problem which robbed his Citroen of power steering on Friday and finished the event in eighth.
Loeb and Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) rounded out the top five in Rally de España, while Mads Ostberg (Citroen) won WRC2 Pro in ninth outright.
The curtain closes on the 2019 WRC season with Kennards Hire Rally Australia from November 14-17.