Narrowly losing the Drivers WRC title to rival Toyota, Hyundai World Rally Team (WRT) has vowed to go into the new season with an ultimate goal of winning the titles outright, both the drivers and manufacturers. As always, the WRC season kicks off at the Rallye Monte Carlo, 23-26 January.
In 2020, Hyundai WRT will compete in its seventh season with four drivers, new and old. Reigning Champion Ott Tanak will jon Thierry Neuville, Dani Sordo and Sebastien Loeb in the new season. They will all pilot the revised Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC.
The i20 Coupe WRC, last season, scored wins on tarmac
(Corsica), gravel (Argentina/Sardinia) and mixed surface (Spain). The car has
been improved and upgraded for 2020 with one aim – win drivers and manufacturers
The 2020 WRC calendar features 14 rounds across the globe.
There are new territories to explore for competing teams such as; Kenya (July),
New Zealand (September) and Japan (November).
At the start of the 2019 WRC (World Rally Championship) season, nobody would have ever predicted that Ott Tanak would be the WRC Champion against the likes of top rally guys like multiple champion and very competent contenders; names like Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Thierry Neuville.
In the second to last rally event of the year, the Rally Spain was the scene for the battle royale between Neuville and Tanak for the Drivers’ crown. Tanak has been consistent all season long, while Neuville, though pulled off several amazing performances, isn’t as persistent as his Estonian rival. Going into the penultimate round, Tanak had a 28-point lead over perennial WRC champion Ogier and a further 13 points laid JM Latvala. These men were the ones with a shot at the title. Ogier knows how to win as he has done it six times, but does the odds favor him this time around?
The other title, the manufacturer, is to be decided at the
Rally Spain between Toyota and. Hyundai, who are just 8 points apart.
The stage was set for the Rally Spain last weekend and it began with 9-time champion Sebastien Loeb burning the tracks to lead all drivers. Loeb showed everybody who’s boss but it wouldn’t be his day, eventually. Loeb, representing Hyundai WRT, led Neuville and Dani Sordo to a 1-2-3 finish in the first leg. Tanak struggled to a fifth place finish behind Citroen’s Kris Meeke. Meantime, Ogier’s race was ruined by a leakage which caused a power steering failure. The 6-time WRC champion had to send in the car for repairs, which put him 17th by the end of the first leg. Heading into the second leg, the top five were Loeb, Neuville, Sordo, Meeke and Tanak.
Leg 2 saw plenty of action as Loeb faded into background. That gave Neuville an opportunity to jump into the lead early and the Belgian kept it until the end of the leg. He led home his team mate but Tanak made progress as well, going from fifth to third by the end of day two. Loeb ended his day two run in fourth, ahead of Latvala. Day three was about to unfold with either Tanak taking his first ever title or the title fight moving up to the finale in Australia.
Tanak commented after the second leg, “I wasn’t feeling too
relaxed but now I’ve been able to learn a bit and get into a rhythm. We would
like to keep the pressure, but to take the time back will be difficult.”
All eyes were set for day three where the battle royale would take place. Tanak needed a second place to seal his maiden title, would he get it? The Hyundai drivers won’t just hand him the title. Neuville was rather unstoppable since day two as he continued to pound the tarmac to increase his lead. The order maintained going into the bonus run or Power Stage.
The power stage was the key moment for Tanak as he swept
past Sordo to go 2nd overall. He would finish 17.2 seconds behind
Neuville which was enough to put his hands on the crown. Sordo was third, followed
by Loeb and Latvala.
In post-rally a jubilant Tanak said, “It’s difficult to say the pressure I felt this weekend – it was next level. To manage all this and get through it has been the target of my life. When you are on the verge of this you cannot imagine it, I just had to make it happen.”
Tanak’s win ended the 15-year Frenchmen’s domination of the WRC by Loeb and Ogier. He becomes the first Toyota driver to win a title since Didier Auriol in 1994, as well as the first Estonian with a World Rally crown.
Neuville’s third victory of the season came down to only the manufacturers’ title to play for, as Hyundai grabbed an 18-point lead from Toyota, going into the season finale at the Rally Australia 14 – 17 November.
2019 WRC Rally Spain results
1. T Neuville / N Gilsoul BEL Hyundai i20 3hr 07min 39.6sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Toyota Yaris +17.2sec
3. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 +17.6sec
4. S Loeb / D Elena FRA Hyundai i20 +53.9sec
5. J-M Latvala / M Anttila FIN Toyota Yaris +1min 00.2sec
1. O Tänak 263pts (new champion)
2. T Neuville 227
3. S Ogier 217
The WRC (World Rally Championship) debut in Chile was a
resounding success for title hopeful Ott Tanak, who won the inaugural Chilean
rally ahead of Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier. Tanak practically led from
start to finish and beat Ogier by just 23 seconds at the finish. Third place
went to 9-time WRC Champion Sebastien Loeb, who drove a Hyundai i20 WRC.
In his trusty Toyota Yaris WRC, Tanak got in front from the second of 16 stages on the first day itself. Despite a relatively unknown course in Chile, the Yaris WRC driver was fast and accurate to maintain the lead all the way to the finish. It was his second win of the season which propelled him to second in the standings. Ogier, who finished second now tops the standings with Neuville demoted to third, after a disastrous rally of Chile outing. Neuville crashed out on leg 2, crushing his hopes to maintain his standings lead.
Tanak took control of the rally from stage two, after he overshot in the first stage; his only error. He then controlled the pace and quickly got to grips with the tricky conditions and new pace notes required for Chile’s WRC debut. A final charge ensured maximum bonus points from the rally-closing Wolf Power Stage. “It was a very difficult and demanding weekend and I needed a lot of focus and energy to be perfect. We weren’t on the limit all the time. We’ve had two setbacks in a row before this where we lost the rally lead, but we proved we’re back in the fight,” the Estonian said.
Ogier locked horns with countryman Loeb in a furious fight for second. Driving a Hyundai i20 for the first time on gravel, Loeb closed to within 1.1sec of Ogier at the start of the final leg before the Citroen C3 driver battled back to finish 7.1sec clear. The Frenchman’s Power Stage drive was handicapped when a fire extinguisher went off, leaving Ogier light-headed by the end otthe 12.52km test.
Behind Loeb was Elfyn Evans who eased through the short final leg to claim fourth in a Ford Fiesta, more than a minute adrift of Loeb. Team-mate Teemu Suninen held off Esapekka Lappi to secure fifth, his cause aided when Lappi spun his C3 in the final stage.
The WRC returns to Europe later this month for the first of two hot weather gravel road fixtures there. Rally of Portugal is based in Matosinhos, Porto, on 30 May – 2 June.
WRC Rally of Chile results
1. O Tänak Toyota Yaris 3hr 15min 53.8sec 2. S Ogier Citroën C3 +23.1sec 3. S Loeb Hyundai i20 +30.2sec 4. E Evans Ford Fiesta +1min 36.7sec 5. T Suninen Ford Fiesta +3min 15.6sec 6. E Lappi Citroën C3 +3min 45.4sec
WRC Drivers standings (after round 6 of 14)
1. S Ogier 122pts 2. O Tänak 112pts 3. T Neuville 110pts
The WRC heads to Chile for Round 6 of 14 rounds, with Thierry Neuville and Reigning Champion Sebastien Ogier locking horns; only 10 point separate the two in the Drivers Standings. Chile will be the 32nd country to host the WRC as the series approaches the mid-way portion of the season.
Following the Rally of Argentina, Neuville, the winner, is gunning for three-in-a-row to extend the lead. However, Neuville is cautious because Chile is an unknown venue for everyone. “It’s hard to set too many expectations when it promises to be a rally of surprise. We only discovered the stages for the first time during the recce but it will be a nice challenge. A lot of work awaits us, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Chile is definitely new for everyone as none of the front runners have previous experience of the dirt road speed tests. The 16 fast and smooth speed tests are based south of the port city of Concepción, mostly on forest tracks sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the mposing Rio Biobió river.
Defending champion Ogier, who finished third last time out, has demanded more speed from his Citroën C3 than on the rock and rugged roads in Argentina two weeks ago, when the Frenchman acknowledged he was lucky to snatch third place.
Previous WRC standings leader Ott Tanak has been demoted to third overall, after two disappointing rounds. The Toyota Yaris driver starts as many people’s favorite for a second win of the year.
The Round 6 action starts on Friday and competitors face 304.81km of competition before the finish in Concepción on Sunday.
The WRC Rally Sardinia, last Sunday, was won by Hyundai WRT’s Thierry Neuville, who beat five-time Champion Sebastien Ogier by the narrowest margin. Neuville trailed Ogier by 0.8sec ahead of the final day’s 6.96km test, but delivered a daredevil drive in his Hyundai i20 to overhaul the Frenchman and claim his third win of the season by 0.7sec.
Following his remarkable win at last round’s WRC Rally Portugal, Hyundai WRT’s front man Thierry Neuville and rivals prepares for the next challenge, the Rally Sardinia. As the winner of the last round, Neuville was first to hit the road when the Sardinia (Sardegna) rally started, today.
As expected, Hyundai WRT’s Thierry Neuville has won the WRC Rally Portugal after Sunday’s short leg. Victory at the gruelling four-day dirt road encounter promoted Neuville to the top of the Drivers’ Standings as the series approaches its midpoint.
The WRC Rally of Portugal hits the pinnacle today as the crews completed an exciting second leg, yesterday. After a couple of action-packed days, Hyundai WRT front man Thierry Neuville holds a comfortable 39.8-second lead in the classification. Neuville should be able to secure the win in the short Sunday finale. Winning the event means a top spot for the Hyundai i20 WRC pilot in the Drivers’ Standings.
The WRC Rally Argentina is at full swing as competitors hit two-thirds of the event. Five-time Champion Sebastien Ogier’s chance to win the Argentine rally appears to go no where as he struggles to finish fourth overall, after the second leg. The rally winner looks likely to be Ott Tanak as he nailed the second day with a flawless drive and extended his lead at the fifth round WRC.