This year, the winner of the World Rally Championship wasn’t called Sebastien. The last time that happened was 2003. Manchester United were still good, Friends was yet to conclude and Fatman Scoop was number one. When being number one still actually meant something. Life was different.
But the 2019 WRC trophy was lifted by Estonian Ott Tänak, ending a French monopoly of the drivers’ title more recently controlled by Sebastien Ogier.
Tänak, victorious with Toyota, has already flown the nest to Hyundai, though, where he’ll defend his world championship in an i20 WRC. Replacing him in his now vacant Yaris? Um, Sebastien Ogier, who’s been snapped up by Toyota in an attempt to extend to fill more gaps in their trophy cabinet and return a Seb to the top of World Rally’s podium.
Toyota’s been busy, in fact. It’s also nabbed Welshman Elfyn Evans from M Sport (he finished fifth in the 2019 standings) and signed up-and-coming driver Kalle Rovanperä. He’s Finnish – like all the best rally drivers – and at 19, is barely half the age of Ogier, but he lifted this year’s WRC-2 Pro title, so he’s already proved his mettle on the world stage.
“Being able to attract a driver with his record says a lot about what we have achieved in such a short space of time with this team,” says Toyota’s rally team boss Tommi Mäkinen (yes, that one) of Ogier’s signing.
“Elfyn is a driver I have been watching for some time. We’ve seen that he can have the speed to win on almost any surface, but he can also be very clever when needed and score good points. I’ve known Kalle since he was very young and it’s always been clear that he has something special. He still has lots to learn, but I believe that he is ready for this step now.”
Reckon Ogier can add a seventh title to his name? Or will Tänak, Evans or – finally – Thierry Neuville lift the trophy?