Tänak WRC maiden driver's bid chances in the balance in Catalunya ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Tänak and Järveoja in the Toyota Yaris in Catalunya Saturday.
Tänak and Järveoja in the Toyota Yaris in Catalunya Saturday. Source: Toyota GAZOO Racing World Rally Team

The WRC drivers' championship has gone right down to the wire coming into the final day of the RallyRACC Catalunya-Rally España on Sunday.

Estonia's Ott Tänak, who tops the table at present, is running in third place. While second placed man in the table, Sébastien  Ogier (Citroën ) faded on Friday with mechanical problems, the only other driver with a mathematical shot at the title, Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) has effectively taken Ogier's place as a kind of stalking horse driver who could keep the world titlte out of the Estonian's reach this weekened, leaving it all to drive for at the final event of the season in Australia in November.

Neuville leads Rally Catalunya, run on a unique mix of gravel and asphalt circuits, after some strong stages on Friday and Saturday. Local boy Dani Sordo (Hyundai) from Cantabria in northern Spain is in second in front of a relative home crowd.

Tänak is next, followed by veteran driver Sébastien  Loeb (Hyundai), Tänak's teammate at Toyota Jari-Mati Latvala (Finland) and Welshman Elfyn Evans (Ford) is sixth.

How Sunday could go

Tänak and teammate Martin Järveoja face four speed stages on Sunday. The first of these, Riudecanyes, is already running at the time of writing, having started at 8.41 a.m. Estonian time.

Three more follow: La Mussara 1 at 9.38 a.m., Riudecanyes 2 at 11.54 and La Mussara 2 at 1.18 p.m. ERR sports portal is broadcasting the last of these stages, the crucial bonus points test, from 1 p.m. Estonian time, and live blogging Sunday's events (in Estonian) here.

How Tänak could do it

Tänank needs to finish 30 points, or more, ahead of Thierry Neuville at the end of the race, regardless of what then happened in Australia, to clinch the title. Even if Ogier or Neuvill then matched him in overall points, the Estonian would win on the higher number of races won (six so far, compared with three to Ogier and two to Neuville).

If Neuville took maximum points, 25 points from the race and 5 from the speed trial, something he has not achieved yet this season (Tänak has managed the feat four times and Ogier once), then Tänak could still clinch the title if he remained in third place in the rally and placed second in the points test. He could get himself more breathing space on the final points stage if he pulled ahead of Dani Sordo in the first three stages on Sunday, to finish second. Then he'd only need fifth place or higher on the points test.

The result would also confirm Martin Järveoja as winner of the co-driver's table; Neuville's strong performance could lead to Hyundai clinching the manufacturer's table, depending on what happened in Australia.

Citroën have been beset with problems this weekend; following abortive attempts to roll-out first a new shock absorber system and then new aerodynamic ahead of the previous two races, it is running an unchanged car. Ogier is currently the highest Citroën driver. lying in eighth.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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