Top 20 Stories of 2019
Topic

Top 20 Stories of 2019

Top Stories of 2019, #7: Citroen quits amid WRC shake-up

In at number seven in our Top Stories countdown is Citroen's decision to quit the World Rally Championship, and the 2020 driver market madness that preceded its announcement.

Top Stories of 2019, #7: Citroen quits amid WRC shake-up

There are no shortage of examples of champions at the highest levels of motorsport that end up attempting to defend their titles with a different team to that with which they won them in the first place. Some make a totally seamless transition (see Valentino Rossi, Eddie Lawson), some take a few years to add to their tally of crowns (Michael Schumacher, Alain Prost), and for others it can prove disastrous (Fernando Alonso, Damon Hill).

Over the coming years we'll see which of these categories Ott Tanak falls into, as he sets out to clinch a second WRC title with Hyundai, after becoming the first champion in the discipline not named 'Sebastien' in some 16 years while driving a Toyota Yaris WRC.

The last driver to take the number one plate elsewhere in rallying's elite category was Richard Burns, who after winning his sole title for Subaru in 2001 upped sticks and joined Peugeot in 2002, only to be soundly beaten by the team's established ace Marcus Gronholm.

Hoping to play the Gronholm role this time around will be Thierry Neuville, who found himself pipped to the post yet again this year but has the advantage of being the only one of the WRC's current 'big three' to be staying put in 2020. That's because Sebastien Ogier's return to Citroen ended in abrupt fashion, the Frenchman jumping on the chance to replace 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 so far yielded six straight titles between 2013 and 2018, but nobody expected that it would be at the wheel of anything other than a Citroen C3 WRC, a car that had at least gained some respectability with Ogier's drives at the start of the season.

But Tanak's gradual loss of patience with Toyota's failure to agree terms to a new contract and an audacious bid on the part of Hyundai for the Estonian driver's services gave Ogier a way out of a situation he had grown increasingly frustrated with. 

Once it became clear Tanak was indeed Hyundai-bound, rumours abounded that Ogier was set to spearhead an all-new Toyota line-up. But effective confirmation of the move came from an unlikely source: a very brief communication from Citroen relaying its WRC exit.

The French marque in essence blamed Ogier's decision to leave it high and dry, claiming that a lack of available top-line talent for 2020 gave it no other option. Ogier described such reasoning as "disrespectful" to the other drivers on the market, adding: "Communication hasn't always been the strongest point for Citroen..."

A combination of Citroen's exit and Toyota's decision to jettison the remaining two-thirds of its 2019 line-up in favour of Elfyn Evans and Kalle Rovanpera has left plenty of talent on the sidelines for 2020, with only 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 on the market, although recent speculation has favoured Lappi - Ogier's Citroen teammate this season - to land the M-Sport drive. The rest all face uncertain futures, with Meeke looking like he'll possibly call time on his rallying career altogether.

Despite the reduced field of top-line cars for 2020, the prospect of Tanak going toe-to-toe with Neuville in identical machinery, not to mention Ogier bidding for one last title to add to his collection in his fourth different car over the last five seasons, is a tantalising one.

And while losing a manufacturer is never a good thing for a world championship, equally a proper driver market mix-up is just the tonic needed to keep fan interest in the series strong - and perhaps just about makes up for the loss of two paid-for factory seats.

Click here to see the list of Top 20 stories so far.

Champion Ott Tänak, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Champion Ott Tänak, Toyota Gazoo Racing

Photo by: Toyota Racing

shares
comments
WRC cars will get hybrid boosts in 2022

Previous article

WRC cars will get hybrid boosts in 2022

Next article

Ogier doesn't want "special status" within Toyota

Ogier doesn't want "special status" within Toyota
Load comments
How Finland's newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia Prime

How Finland's newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia

Kalle Rovanpera broke a decade-old record in becoming the World Rally Championship's youngest-ever winner in a truly dominant performance on Estonia's fast gravel roads. Staving off the challenge of Hyundai's Craig Breen, his committed drive showed a maturity beyond his 20 years that gives Toyota's post-Ogier era a far brighter complexion

WRC
Jul 19, 2021
How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale Prime

How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale

The World Rally Championship’s delayed return to the Safari Rally was always set throw up some surprises, but aside from a spirited showing by Thierry Neuville it became another painful event for Hyundai in 2021. Once again it was Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage as he completed a stunning comeback drive

WRC
Jun 28, 2021
Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win Prime

Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win

The Safari Rally returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend for the first time since 2002 - when crowd favourite Colin McRae set aside the maximum attack style for which he was renowned to deliver a textbook third win.

WRC
Jun 23, 2021
How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2 Prime

How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2

For the second WRC gravel rally in a row, a promising Friday for Hyundai turned into desolation as Toyota gratefully picked up the pieces. This time it was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage after Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo retired to score a memorable victory, having swept the road on the first two days

WRC
Jun 7, 2021
Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel Prime

Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo was vocal in his criticism of his team's tyre choices on Rally Croatia and declared that he "had better move my ass and solve it". Doing so will be vital to getting Hyundai's 2021 WRC title hopes back on track, but finding the root of the problem won't be the work of a moment

WRC
Apr 28, 2021
How Ogier survived road crash drama to triumph in Croatia Prime

How Ogier survived road crash drama to triumph in Croatia

Sebastien Ogier was already in an incredibly tight fight at Rally Croatia before a surprise collision with public road traffic at the start of the final day. But the defending champion held his nerve to take a narrow victory and create further World Rally Championship history

WRC
Apr 26, 2021
Why WRC's hybrid path could leave it at a crossroads Prime

Why WRC's hybrid path could leave it at a crossroads

With all three major manufacturers committing to the World Rally Championship’s hybrid era from 2022, the future of the series is assured for now, but it could lead to trickier twists and turns further down the road

WRC
Apr 1, 2021
How Tanak froze out the competition at the Arctic Rally Prime

How Tanak froze out the competition at the Arctic Rally

Ott Tanak made up for a disastrous Monte Carlo Rally by leading all the way on the snow-kissed stages of the Arctic Rally Finland and in the process hit back at an event Toyota had been expected to dominate…

WRC
Mar 1, 2021