• Ogier wins for Citroën in Turkey to re-ignite his title defence
• Final three rounds of 2019 WRC to decide Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ crowns
• Toyota pace-setter Tänak sees his points advantage slashed
• Protagonists prepare for crucial showdown in the Welsh forests
• Adult tickets from just £15 in advance, kids aged 15 and under go free
Take a deep breath: the thrilling title battle for 2019 FIA World Rally Championship has just ratcheted up another notch or two as the protagonists now head to the UK for Wales Rally GB (3-6 October).
Sébastien Ogier’s stirring victory in last weekend’s sweltering Rally Turkey has reignited his hopes of a seventh straight crown. The Citroën star’s first victory since March sees him climb back to second place in the standings, closing the gap on series leader Ott Tänak to just 17 points with a maximum 90 available from the final three rounds in Wales, Spain and Australia.
“We really needed this win if we were to have a chance of getting back into contention in the championship. We are still quite some points behind Tänak, but still alive,” admitted a delighted Ogier who will now be looking to maintain his momentum in Wales, an event he has won a record five times. “Rally GB coming up next is a rally I like. It suits me very well, so I hope I can carry on and continue to put pressure on him.”
After back-to-back wins in Finland and Germany, Tänak’s hopes in tough Turkey fell by the wayside when his Toyota Yaris ground to a halt with an electrical problem.
“It was disappointing,” admitted the series leader who also retired when leading last year’s Wales Rally GB. “We always want to fight back and fight back hard. There are three rounds left and there is nothing else we can do other than push to the maximum and do our best.”
The intense heat on rock-strewn mountain tracks also derailed fellow championship rival Thierry Neuville who languished in eighth after a costly off-track excursion. Although slipping to third in the title race, the Hyundai top gun did manage to claw back a few precious points on Tänak.
“We’ve seen so many situations between us three this season for the championship it’s crazy,” he remarked. “We have three rounds of the season left, so let’s move onto Wales and see what happens there!”
Despite Neuville’s failure to take maximum advantage of Tänak’s misfortune, he remains within striking distance of the pace-setting Estonian. Victory in Wales would put him right back into contention as this blockbuster season reaches its exciting climax.
Adding to the tension, both Hyundai and Toyota are also locked in a duel for top Manufacturers’ honours – a title the two rival car companies value even more highly than the coveted Drivers’ crown.
Both teams have three high-quality entries in Wales with the top two finishers scoring all-important points. Andreas Mikkelsen and Craig Breen line up alongside Neuville in Hyundai’s trio of light blue i20 Coupes while Tänak’s team-mates in the red and white Toyota camp are former Rally GB winner Jari-Matti Latvala and Ulsterman Kris Meeke.
“It could hardly be more exciting,” enthused Hugh Chambers, Chief Executive of Motorsport UK, organiser of Wales Rally GB. “Both titles are poised on a knife-edge and we can certainly expect plenty more incredible drama when the WRC arrives in Wales. Our advance ticket sales are at record levels underlining just how popular this year’s championship is proving to be.”
Although various options have already sold-out, a wide selection of tickets for all 22 competitive special stages are still on sale. Adult tickets start from just £15 and accompanied children aged 15 and under are offered free admission.
Although tickets will be available on the gate, significant savings are available for all those purchasing online now. Full details can be found on the official www.walesrallygb.com website.
2019 DRIVERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
(after 11 of 14 rounds)
1. Ott Tänak (EST) – 210 points
2. Sébastien Ogier (FRA) – 193 points
3. Thierry Neuville (BEL) – 180 points
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) – 94 points
5. Kris Meeke (GBR) – 86 points
6. Jari-Matti Latvala (FIN) – 84 points
7. Teemu Suninen (FIN) – 83 points
8. Esapekka Lappi (FIN) – 80 points
9. Elfyn Evans (GBR) – 78 points
10. Dani Sordo (ESP) – 72 points
2019 MANUFACTURERS’ WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
1. Hyundai WRT – 314 points
2. Toyota Gazoo Racing – 295 points
3. Citroën Total WRT – 259 points
4. M-Sport Ford WRT – 184 points