Monday | 11 Oct 2021

Rally rewind: Spain 2019

The hills behind Spain’s Costa Daurada coast bore witness to a hugely significant weekend when the FIA World Rally Championship last visited two seasons ago. We look back at the happenings on the gravel tracks and smooth asphalt roads in October 2019.

1. Title for Tänak and Toyota
Sunday in Salou was a time of glorious celebration. Ott Tänak fulfilled a lifetime’s dream by becoming the first Estonian to win the WRC drivers’ title, sealing the crown with a round to spare in a thrilling finale.

He charged off the startline in the final bonus points-paying Wolf Power Stage in third place. He needed to finish no lower than one position behind leader Thierry Neuville to prevent the Belgian carrying the fight into the closing round in Australia.

He didn’t require the bonus points, blasting through La Mussara to take fastest time and, more importantly, sweep past home hero Dani Sordo to claim second place and the title by 0.4sec.

Tänak presented a calm figure throughout the weekend, but later revealed the stress he had carried.

“It’s difficult to say the pressure I felt this weekend, it was next level,” said the jubilant Toyota Yaris World Rally Car driver afterwards. “To manage all this and get through it has been the target of my life. I never wanted to take risks but my mother said yesterday evening that if I want something, I can make it happen. I just had to make it happen.”

Video: RallyRACC Rally de España

2. End of French domination
Tänak’s triumph was notable for reasons other than putting Estonia on the WRC’s roll of honour for the first time.

Not since 2003 had the crown been lifted by a driver who wasn’t French and called Sébastien. The years 2004 to 2012 were the domain of Monsieur Loeb and Citroën, before the mantle switched to Monsieur Ogier.

It was also a cause of huge celebrations for Toyota Gazoo Racing. The Japanese manufacturer had not won a drivers’ title since Didier Auriol was triumphant in 1994.

Tänak grabbed the title with a blistering final stage attack

3. A win lost in title celebrations
Amid all the title fanfare, Neuville’s victory was somewhat overshadowed. The Hyundai i20 World Rally Car pilot was under severe pressure. He had to win to try to force the title battle into the last round and never put a foot wrong.

He ended the opening gravel leg in second in a Hyundai clean sweep of the top three, before soaring into the lead once the mixed surface event switched to asphalt.

He was relying on team-mates Loeb and Sordo to stay ahead of the charging Tänak, but that blistering final stage attack ended his hopes. Consolation was the rally win by 17.2sec.

Neuville was faultless en route to the rally win

4. Power steering problem sabotages Ogier
The first-leg gravel ended Ogier’s title chances. He started the event second in the points and led initially, but conceded almost four minutes when a hydraulic pipe came loose on his Citroën C3, leaving him with no power steering.

He ended the day 17th and with blistered hands after wrestling his car through two stages. Although he recovered to eighth, his prospects of a seventh straight title were over.

5. Furious first day fight
A frantic first day witnessed four different drivers in the lead. Ogier, Neuville and Sordo held sway before Loeb produced a smash-and-grab in the final stage to leap from third to first. Loeb fell away from the podium fight on asphalt and eventually ended fourth.

• Full coverage from RallyRACC Rally de España will be available on WRC+ All Live here, including every stage broadcast as it happens as well as key interviews, features and expert analysis from the service park.

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