2018 reflections – part 2

Few WRC seasons will remain as long in the memory as the stunning 2018 campaign. In the second part of our lookback, we examine two more key stories that helped make the year the best for a generation.

Tänak’s searing speed

Ott Tänak was the fastest driver in the 2018 WRC.

It’s an opinion few would argue with and is backed up by statistics. He won more special stages than anyone and led for more stages than any other driver.

After a season in the shadow of Sébastien Ogier at M-Sport Ford, Tänak’s switch to Toyota Gazoo Racing enabled the Estonian to emerge not only as the Japanese manufacturer’s number one driver, but also as a title contender.

His campaign was one of highs and lows. Poor returns from Sweden, Mexico, Portugal and Italy were offset by victory in Argentina and a terrific hat-trick of wins in Finland, Germany and Turkey to gatecrash the title scrap between Ogier and Thierry Neuville.

A little more luck and a touch more guile could have seen him achieve what few would have thought possible at the start of the year.

He won or led each of the last six rounds and many will place him at the top of their favourites list for 2019.

Meeke's Portugal crash led to his exit from Citroën

Meeke’s Citroën exit

It was a bolt from the blue and unquestionably the biggest talking point away from the stages.

Citroën Racing issued a statement late afternoon on Thursday 24 May announcing that Kris Meeke had been axed from the team. It came six days after a monster accident in Portugal when he rolled heavily into the trees.

The decision was taken due to ‘an excessively high number of crashes’ with team principal Pierre Budar confirming it was based on safety considerations.

“It is largely founded on safety issues which come under my preoccupations as team principal. We have consequently chosen to make this decision as a preventive measure,” he said.

The news divided the service park. Some believed it harsh on a man saddled with a car that wasn’t up to scratch. Others agreed Citroën could not keep a driver prone to crashing. Whichever camp you stood in, Meeke was gone.

It was 146 days later when Toyota announced he would drive a Yaris in 2019. Last chance for the Ulsterman? Inspired decision by team boss Tommi Mäkinen? Time will tell.

Tomorrow: Sébastien Loeb and WRC+ All Live

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