Estonian Sensation: How Ott Tänak Won the 2019 World Rally Championship
The 2019 World Rally Championship (WRC) season was one to remember for Ott Tänak and his team. After years of close calls and near misses, Tänak finally secured his first WRC title in dramatic fashion.
Tänak, a native of Estonia, had been a consistent contender in the WRC since he first began competing in the series in 2009. He had come close to winning the championship several times before, finishing third in both 2017 and 2018. But it wasn’t until the 2019 season that he was able to secure the top spot and first ever WRC title for an Estonian driver.
The 2019 WRC season was filled with ups and downs for Tänak and his team. He started off the year with a 3rd place at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, behind Theirry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier who both went on to be the main title contenders for the year. Rally Sweden saw Tänak bounce back with a convincing win with the 2nd place Esapekka Lappi losing almost a minute to the Estonian.
Tour de Corse and Rally Argentina saw Tänak dropping points to Thierry Neuville who won both consecutive rallies. Tänak responded in spectacular fashion, winning the next two rallies (Chile and Portugal) himself. Despite these wins, Tänak was still facing stiff competition from several other drivers, mainly from reigning champion Sebastien Ogier and Theirry Neuville.
Yet, after another back-to-back wins in Finland and Germany, Tänak, who had shown blistering speed throughout the season, seemed destined to win it all. However, an electrical failure and Ogier’s win in Turkey brought a reality check to Tänak’s fans – in motorsports, anything can still happen.
In the end, a first place finish in the 2019 Wales Rally and second place in Cataluna proved to be more than enough for Tänak to win his first WRC title. The second place Neuville (41 pts off the lead) was charging hard throughout the weekend in Spain to keep his title hopes alive. He ended up victorious, yet Tänak did not disappoint under pressure, coming in second. The 2019 season ended then and there as the last scheduled rally, Rally Australia, was cancelled due to bushfires.
When the dust settled at the end of the season, Tänak had amassed a spectacular 73 stage wins, 9 podiums and 6 rally wins. Tänak’s win was a historic moment for Estonia, as he became the first Estonian driver to ever win the WRC title. It was also a testament to the hard work and determination of Tänak and his team, who had come so close to winning the championship in previous years but had never quite been able to seal the deal. Tänak’s title win also ended the two French Sebastiens’ dominance stretching a decade and a half.
Ott Tänak: “Winning the championship is something I have been working towards for many years. To finally achieve it is an incredible feeling. I have to thank my team, who have been with me every step of the way and have helped me become the driver I am today. It’s been an emotional journey, but it’s all worth it now that I can call myself the WRC champion.”
The victory was a huge accomplishment for Tänak and his team, and it solidified his place in the annals of WRC history. It was a true showcase of his skill and talent as a rally driver and it was a great way to end the season.