WRC: Neuville wins in Spain, while Tänak takes 2019 title* with Michelin
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WRC: Neuville wins in Spain, while Tänak takes 2019 title* with Michelin


Despite claiming an assertive victory at the RallyRACC Catalunya-Rally de España, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai/Michelin) failed to prevent second-placed Ott Tänak (Toyota/Michelin) from pocketing the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship Drivers’ crown* with one round to go. The Estonian – who earned Michelin’s 55th WRC title in the process – is the first non-Frenchman to win the coveted prize since 2003.  


Going into Spain’s round of the championship, Tänak enjoyed cushions of 28 and 41 points respectively over Sébastien Ogier (Citroën/Michelin) and Neuville, which meant he could potentially sew up the title fight ahead of the campaign’s final clash in Australia.

Ogier’s chances were all but scuppered on the opening morning when the outgoing time champ was delayed by power-steering trouble, but Hyundai Motorsport had no intention of throwing in the towel. The Korean brand even monopolised the podium after Leg 1’s gravel stages which saw Michelin rubber help Sébastien Loeb, Neuville and Dani Sordo to finish in that order.

When the action switched to asphalt on Saturday, Neuville soon emerged in front, however, chased by Sordo, while four fastest times in a row took Tänak past Loeb into third spot.

The Estonian knew that second place would suffice to secure the title and Hyundai’s front-running pair did everything in their power to ward off the Toyota driver’s pressure on Sunday morning.

Running on hard-compound Michelin Pilot Sport H5 tyres, they succeeded in concluding the day’s first three stages in front, but Tänak pulled out all the stops on the 20.72-kilometre Power Stage (La Mussara) to post the best effort and ease past Sordo into second place by a margin of just four-tenths of a second!

In doing so, he clocked up Michelin’s 27th Drivers’ crown in world-class rallying and stemmed a long series that had seen French rivals Loeb (nine titles) and Ogier (six) reign supreme in the sport for 15 years.

In contrast to the woes it suffered in the battle for overall victory, Citroën Racing and Michelin dominated the WRC2 Pro and WRC2 battles to win with Norway’s Mads Ostberg and Frenchman Eric Camilli respectively.

The final round of the 2019 FIA WRC will take teams to Australia on November 14-17 when the battle between Hyundai and Toyota for the top Manufacturers’ prize will be settled.

(*) Subject to the publication of the official results by the FIA

2019 RallyRACC Catalunya Rally de España – final positions:

1. Neuville/Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC), 3h7m39.6s

2. Tänak/Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC), +17.2s

3. Sordo/Del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC), +17.6s

4. Loeb/Elena (Hyundai i20 Coupé WRC), +53.9s

5. Latvala/Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC), +1m0.2s

6. Evans/Martin (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), +1m14.2s

7. Suninen/Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta RS WRC), +1m47.6s

8. Ogier/Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC), +4m20.5s

9. Ostberg/Eriksen (Citroën C3 R5), +8m24.6s (1st, WRC2 Pro)

10. Camilli/Veillas (Citroën C3 R5), +8m47.2s (1st, WRC2)