For the second time in three years, German driver Aaron Burkart will start the last event of the season with a shot at the title - but this time he arrives at the finale as the favourite.
Two years ago, he was up against Frenchman Sebastien Ogier, but he lost that 2008 scrap to a driver who has now won two rounds of the World Rally Championship.
Burkart is seven points ahead of title rival Hans Weijs Jr going into next week’s Salou-based event. The Suzuki driver is a veteran of the Junior championship, having competed in the series since 2006. After finishing second in 2008, he remained on the podium - all be it one step lower last season.
There was a chance Burkart could have sewn the title up in France on the penultimate round, but the combination of Weijs Jr finishing second and a tough event for Burkart himself ensured it went to the wire.
“It’s going to be a tough rally in Spain,” said Burkart. “Nobody really knows too much what to expect from the first day, it’s some gravel and some asphalt and then we have the normal Catalunya after that. The last round in France was not so nice for us. I wanted a steady run for the points, but we had two punctures on Saturday morning and then slid off the road on stage 14. It was not so nice. Let’s see for Catalunya, it’s going to be exciting!”
Weis Jr’s team-mate Kevin Abbring was another driver who might have fancied spoiling Burkart’s party, but when the Dutchman rolled his Renault off the road, his title hopes were dashed. Abbring does not start in Spain.
So, Weijs Jr is the only man who can stand in the way of Burkart’s hopes of standing on every position on the J-WRC season-long podium in the last three years. Weijs and his Citroen C2 Max have been the form partnership of the second half of the season, collecting a win and two second places from the last three rallies.
Weijs said: “It’s going to be close. We have had a good run recently. It could have been closer, level, if we hadn’t had a puncture and had to stop and change it, dropping out of the lead on the last event.”
Bulgarian Todor Slavov (Renault), Alessandro Broccoli (Renault) and Harry Hunt (Ford) are among the other J-WRC regulars present for the final round in Spain.