There aren’t any scarcity of examples of champions on the highest ranges of motorsport that find yourself trying to defend their titles with a special workforce to that with which they gained them within the first place. Some make a completely seamless transition (see Valentino Rossi, Eddie Lawson), some take a number of years so as to add to their tally of crowns (Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost), and for others it could show disastrous (Fernando Alonso, Damon Hill).
Over the approaching years we’ll see which of those classes Ott Tanak falls into, as he units out to clinch a second WRC title with Hyundai, after changing into the primary champion within the self-discipline not named ‘Sebastien’ in some 16 years whereas driving a Toyota Yaris WRC.
The final driver to take the primary plate elsewhere in rallying’s elite class was Richard Burns, who after profitable his sole title for Subaru in 2001 upped sticks and joined Peugeot in 2002, solely to be soundly overwhelmed by the workforce’s established ace Marcus Gronholm.
Hoping to play the Gronholm function this time round will likely be Thierry Neuville, who discovered himself pipped to the publish but once more this yr however has the benefit of being the one one of many WRC’s present ‘large three’ to be staying put in 2020. That is as a result of Sebastien Ogier’s return to Citroen led to abrupt style, the Frenchman leaping on the possibility to interchange Tanak at Toyota.
Ogier had already made waves by declaring that the 2020 WRC season would be the last of an illustrious career that has up to now yielded six straight titles between 2013 and 2018, however no one anticipated that it could be on the wheel of something aside from a Citroen C3 WRC, a automobile that had a minimum of gained some respectability with Ogier’s drives at first of the season.
However Tanak’s gradual lack of persistence with Toyota’s failure to agree phrases to a brand new contract and an audacious bid on the a part of Hyundai for the Estonian driver’s companies gave Ogier a manner out of a scenario he had grown more and more annoyed with.
As soon as it turned clear Tanak was certainly Hyundai-bound, rumours abounded that Ogier was set to spearhead an all-new Toyota line-up. However efficient affirmation of the transfer got here from an unlikely supply: a really temporary communication from Citroen relaying its WRC exit.
The French marque in essence blamed Ogier’s resolution to go away it excessive and dry, claiming that a lack of obtainable top-line expertise for 2020 gave it no different possibility. Ogier described such reasoning as “disrespectful” to the other drivers on the market, including: “Communication hasn’t all the time been the strongest level for Citroen…”
A mixture of Citroen’s exit and Toyota’s resolution to jettison the remaining two-thirds of its 2019 line-up in favour of Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera has left loads of expertise on the sidelines for 2020, with just one seat at M-Sport left up for grabs alongside Teemu Suninen.
Kris Meeke, Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen, Mads Ostberg, Hayden Paddon, Craig Breen and Esapekka Lappi are all available on the market, though latest hypothesis has favoured Lappi – Ogier’s Citroen teammate this season – to land the M-Sport drive. The remaining all face unsure futures, with Meeke looking like he’ll possibly call time on his rallying career altogether.
Regardless of the diminished area of top-line vehicles for 2020, the prospect of Tanak going toe-to-toe with Neuville in equivalent equipment, to not point out Ogier bidding for one final title so as to add to his assortment in his fourth completely different automobile over the past 5 seasons, is a tantalising one.
And whereas dropping a producer is rarely a very good factor for a world championship, equally a correct driver market mix-up is simply the tonic wanted to maintain fan curiosity within the collection robust – and maybe nearly makes up for the lack of two paid-for manufacturing facility seats.
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Champion Ott Tänak, Toyota Gazoo Racing