Forest fires halt Rally Australia, handing title to Tänak's new team

The final round of the World Rally Championship series in Australia has been canceled, due to extensive forest fires in the rally's host state of New South Wales.

Since Estonia's Ott Tänak had clinched the drivers' championship, and by extension, fellow Estonian Martin Järveoja the co-drivers' equivalent, the championship had not been decided on for manufacturers.

Hyundai, the team Tänak is joining for 2020, led the table going into the final leg on 380 points, over his 2019 team, Toyota, on 362 points, meaning Tänak would either have driven for the winning manufacturer this season, or joined it next season (third-placed team Citroen was nearly 100 points behind Hyundai).

In the event, the fires made the decision and Hyundai takes the title.

Dozens of out-of-control fires have been raging over a 2 million-acre area for several days in Australia's most populous state, where a state of emergency has been declared. Fires are threatening the Greater Sydney area, and there have been at least three reported fatalities.

The Kennards Hire Rally Australia circuit at Coffs Harbour, on New South Wales' Mid-North coast, is within the affected zone (see gallery), prompting organizers to decide Tuesday to cancel the event, bringing the season to a premature end.

Had the drivers' championship not been decided at the last race, it would most likely have gone to Tänak, who had led the table since race two, in any case.

The 2020 season starts on Jan. 23 at Monte Carlo, with reigning champion Tänak in his debut Hyundai drive.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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