In the second of our half-term reports, we dive into the main WRC field and start right at the top of the class. Step forward, after an exemplary first half of the year, Toyota Gazoo Racing driver Ott Tänak.
Tänak leads the drivers’ standings by four points at the mid-season break but the Estonian, and his classmates, know he should probably be further ahead.
The maths from Ott have been outstanding. He’s led for more stages than the next four drivers (Sébastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Elfyn Evans) in the standings combined, and set more than twice the number of fastest times than anybody else.
The Yaris driver won three from eight rallies, but the combination of punctures, electrical issues and that heartbreaking steering problem on the last stage at Rally Italia Sardegna have cost him the chance to be a win ahead.
The good news for Tänak is what lies ahead for the rest of the year. We saw towering pace from him in the second half of last season and a repeat of that Finland-Germany-Turkey hat-trick would put him in the box seat for a maiden title at the end of term party in Coffs Harbour.
Tänak’s team, defending manufacturers’ champions Toyota, sits second in the makes’ race, 44 points adrift of Hyundai Motorsport.
Briton Kris Meeke made his Toyota debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo and was an instant hit with the Japanese manufacturer, quickest at shakedown and winning the season’s first Wolf Power Stage.
There was plenty for the Northern Irishman to get used to. As well as a new team and new car, he was also acquainting himself with new co-driver Seb Marshall. The first half-term has shown plenty of promise, save for the odd broken rim and a Chilean roll.
One of his strongest showings came in Portugal where he went into the penultimate stage just 8.1sec behind rally leader Tänak. Unfortunately, Meeke’s hopes of a first Toyota podium were lost when he ran wide and damaged the suspension in the final test.
Jari-Matti Latvala’s start to the term has been a tricky one. Time in a snowbank ruined Sweden and he has also suffered similar electrical and wheel rim-related issues to his team-mates.
At times, like his fellow Yaris drivers, he’s been unlucky, but nobody knows better than J-ML himself that he has to do better before the end of the year. Fortunately for him, he’s starting the next half-term on familiar ground with his home fixture in Finland.