If someone shouts, “Will the real World Rally Champion for 2019 please stand up,” few people will not look in the direction of Ott Tänak, before any one stands up.
This morning before the start of the last leg on Rally Spain, the only driver with a bit of a risky, if not illogical mathematical chance to grab the 2019 World Title from Tänak, is currently leading the Rally Spain Catalunya.
Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai i20 has so far done everything he could to keep one finger on the highest trophy in the sport, but if teammate Dani Sordo does not manage to keep Tänak in the Toyota, behind him, all will be lost for Neuville.
The teams started the Spanish Rally with Tänak leading Ogier by 9 points and Neuville by 22.
Ogier was the winner of a broken power steering pipe and after losing four minutes to the leaders on day One, he decided to rather test a few things on the Citroën for the future, than driving like a lunatic, hoping for about ten miracles.
This left only Neuville with a “mathematical” chance to stop Tänak on his way to his maiden World Rally Title.
Tänak meanwhile on days one and two, moved from a conservative 6th overall into a charging third, after pushing Loëb down, albeit by a mere 0.6s and closing the gap between him and second placed Sordo to a mere 3,1s.
So, let’s look at the so-called permutations.
What happens if Neuville wins overall and wins the Wolf Power Stage, if Tänak stays third and does not post a top time in the Power stage?
Neuville will then score 30 points, against Tänak’s 16. This will mean that Tänak will still lead Neuville by 30 points, which in turn means that the best Neuville can do in Australia, if Tänak does not even bother to go there, is pull off a draw.
Should they finish on equal points for the season, Tänak will be crowned champion because he won most rallies overall.
So, “will the real champion please stand up?”
It will however be interesting to see if Tänak will show his superiority by passing Sordo or if he will settle for third spot and a point or three on the Power Stage?
One must however not lose sight of Sebastien Loëb. He is currently less than the blink of an eye behind Tänak and his task still remains to push Tänak back as far as he possibly can.
The question here is if Tänak will want to get involved in a dog fight with one of the best drivers ever and put unnecessary pressure on himself going into the last rally of the year?
I will not be surprised at all, no matter my predictions on Thursday, if Loëb pulls of a second overall, doing exactly what the team management expected from him.
It is almost certain that Hyundai is going to win the 2019 Manufacturers title, as things stand now.
I could not help but smile at a statement from Neuville; “I’ve done my job so far and my team-mates are really trying to resist, but obviously Tänak was fast this afternoon. We’re going to try and finish the job we started yesterday morning and let’s see whether Tänak can claim second or if he stays in third.”
Now if that is not speaking your own hand, then I do not know what would entice Murphy’s Law more. No possibility built in for Tänak to do better than second!
Watch this space…