Rally de Catalunya, the penultimate race of the WRC season, is over for Ott Tänak and Martin Järveoja, after the pair had a spin early on in Friday's events. While they were able to continue in the Hyundai i20, Tänak and Järveoja were well off the pace, and pulled out late on Friday. The weekend has been bittersweet for the Estonian, who turned 34 on Friday, at the very venue where he clinched his maiden WRC drivers' title at Rally de Catalunya two years ago.
Hyundai team boss Andrea Adama said via a Hyundai press release that: "They can't take off tomorrow because the chassis is damaged."
The development puts an end to any chances of Tänak coming second overall this season, though depending on what happens to the drivers immediately above him in the table, the Estonian might be able to improve one or two places above his current fifth place.
The 2021 season resumed Thursday, after a two-week break, with a test stage, in which Tänak finished fifth.
Tänak has won 14 events in the WRC series in his career, but has never achieved a victory in Catalunya, though reached the podium as a driver for M-Sport Ford in 2017 when he came in third. He finished second two years ago, which was enough to clinch his maiden world title. Last year's event was canceled due to the pandemic.
Day two of Rally de Catalunya, staged over 1,410.29 km in the province of Tarragona, started badly for Tänak and Järveoja, after the pair span their Hyundai i20 during the first stage Friday morning.
The driver and co-driver were uninjured, though while the car was able to continue for the rest of Friday after the spin (see tweet below) they fell from fourth to sixth in the process, dropping out of the top 10 altogether before the announcement they would be retiring.
After stage five, Friday's final stage, Tänak's teammate at Hyundai and 2021 drivers' table third placer Thierry Neuville (Belgium) is in the lead, followed by last year's runner up Elfyn Evans (Wales, Toyota), seven-time WRC champion Sebastien Ogier (France Toyota), another Hyundai man, relatively-local driver Dani Sordo in fourth place and Finn Kalle Rovaneperä, victor in September's Acropolis Rally, in fifth place, 38.0 seconds behind Neuville.
Neuville has been somewhat of an ever-the-bridesmaid WRC season-finisher through his career, but is still in with a mathematical chance of rectifying that as things stand on Friday.
Welshman Elfyn Evans had been fastest in the morning, though Japanese driver Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) fared even worse then the Estonian, being forced to pull-out.
On a lighter note, Tänak tuned 34 on Friday, and co-driver Järveoja posted the video below by way of congratulations.
View this post on Instagram
The race continues on Saturday, with the final day on Sunday.
Catalunya rally Itinerary, with distances, start time (Estonian time) and completed stages and their winners in italics:
Thursday, October 14:
Test Coll de la Teixeta 4.31 km 10.01 OGIER
Friday, October 15:
SS1 Vilaplana 1 20.00 km 9.43 EVANS
SS2 La Granadella 1 21,80 km 11.21 EVANS/NEUVILLE
SS3 Riba-roja 1 17.54 km 13.24 EVANS
SS4 Vilaplana 2 20.00 km 16.00 NEUVILLE
SS5 La Granadella 2 21.80 km 17.38 NEUVILLE
SS6 Riba-roja 2 14.21 km 18.59 NEUVILLE
Saturday, October 16:
SS7 Savalla 1 14.08 km 9.44
SS8 Querol - Les Pobles 1 19.17 km 10.37
SS9 El Montmell 1 24.40 km 11.38
SS10 Savalla 2 14.08 km 15.14
SS11 Querol - Les Pobles 2 19.17 km 16.07
SS12 El Montmell 2 24.40 km 17.08
SS13 Salou 2.15 km 19.00
Sunday, October 17:
SS14 Santa Marina 1 9.10 km 8.00
SS15 Riudecanyes 1 16.35 km 9.08
SS16 Santa Marina 2 9.10 km 11.29
SS17 Riudecanyes 2 (PS) 16.35 km 13.18
WRC drivers' standings going into the race weekend
1. Sebastien Ogier (Toyota) 190 points
2. Elfyn Evans (Toyota) 166
3. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) 130
4. Kalle Rovanperä (Toyota) 129
5. Ott Tänak 128 (Hyundai)
6. Craig Breen 76 (Hyundai)
7. Takamoto Katsuta (Toyota) 68
8. Gus Greensmith (M-Sport) 52
WRC manufacturers' standings
1. Toyota 441
2. Hyundai 380
3. M-Sport 172
4. Hyundai 2C 44
Sebastien Ogier looks set to clinch his eighth world title, with his 24-point lead in the drivers' table, even if he does not win in Catalunya.
Tänak can still theoretically achieve second place at the end of the season, but the competition for third place is very tight. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) is currently third in the rankings at 130 points, followed by Toyota man Kalle Rovanperä at 129 points and Tänak on 128 points.
The season climax takes place at Monza, Italy, November 19-21.
This article was updated to include the announcement that Ott Tänak had pulled out of the rally.
Editor: Andrew Whyte