Ott Tänak crowned WRC drivers' world champion ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

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Ott Tänak, 2019 WRC drivers' champion.
Ott Tänak, 2019 WRC drivers' champion. Source: AFP/Scanpix

Ott Tänak has become WRC World Champion, making him the first ever Estonian to take the title.

Tänak and co-driver Martin Järveoja scored enough points at the penultimate race of the season at RallyRACC Catalunya-Rally España on Sunday to take the title in the Toyota Yaris over the only other two contenders going into race weekend Sébastien Ogier (Citroën) and Thierry Neuville (Hyundai).

Martin Järveoja is co-drivers' champion.

The result marks the first time since 2003 someone with the name Sébastien has not won the drivers' title. Sébastien Loeb of France, who finished 4th on Sunday, was dominant in the 2000s with Citroën, and compatriot Sébastien Ogier took over the mantle, winning six consecutive titles for Volkswagen and then Ford. It was Ogier's switch to Citroën for this season that saw the end of his predominance; while Ogier was challenging Tänak hard all year, issues with the car contributed to a recent dip in form, which the Estonian took advantage of.

In the event it was Thierry Neuville of Belgium, the only other driver who had a mathematical chance of taking the title once the latter half of the season had been reached, who threatened to upset Tänak's weekend and force him to have everything to do in the final race of the season in Australia. Neuville led this weekend's rally from early on while Ogier faded, but the points gap was wide enough that by the time the final stage arrived in Catalunya on Sunday, all Tänak needed to do was effectively not make a mistake.

The Estonian, 32, from Saaremaa, proved the equal of that demand, in fact sweeping past Spain's Dani Sordo in the Hyundai in the final stage to take second place overall, sealing the title, and vindicating Toyota Gazoo Sport team boss Tommi Mäkinen, who had been saying for some weeks that he thought it was going to be Ott's year.

The pressure was no doubt there even if Tänak, in true Estonian style, did not show it.

"It's difficult to say the pressure I felt this weekend, it was next level. To manage all this and get through it has been the target of my life," he said after then win.

"I never wanted to take risks but my mother said yesterday evening that if I want something I can make it happen. I just had to make it happen," he added.

President Kersti Kaljulaid was among those first to congratulate the pair via her social media account.

"What you did over this weekend was awesome. All Estonia is proud!" the president said in a video greeting.

While Tänak and Järveoja are confirmed season title winners in the drivers' and co-drivers' table, with one race to go there is still some unfinished business - Toyota Gazoo racing lies second in the manufacturers' table behind Hyundai, following the latter team's double podium finish. While Jari-Mati Latvala of Finland came in fifth, Kris Meeke of Northern Ireland was well down the field, meaning while the celebrations continue, Tommi Mäkinen will be hoping for a concerted team push in November off the back of today's win.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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