(Reuters) - Toyota’s Ott Tanak became the first Estonian driver to win the world rally championship when he finished second in Spain on Sunday, ending the sport’s 15-year domination by French Sebastiens.
A generation has grown up knowing no other champion than Sebastien Loeb, who won nine titles in a row, or Sebastien Ogier who took another six successive crowns.
Tanak is Toyota’s first drivers’ champion since Frenchman Didier Auriol in 1994.
Tanak scored five bonus points in the final Power Stage to extend his lead over Hyundai’s Rally of Spain winner Thierry Neuville to 36 points with one more round in Australia remaining worth a maximum 30.
Neuville beat Tanak by 17.2 seconds in the rally, based around Salou on Spain’s eastern coast, for his third win of the season with team mate Dani Sordo third and just 0.4 behind Tanak.
The Belgian had led from Saturday morning with Tanak going into Sunday in third place and needing to get ahead of Sordo.
The first and third places in the mixed surface event extended Hyundai’s lead over Toyota in the manufacturers’ standings to 18 points.
“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. When you are on the verge of this you cannot imagine it,” Tanak told the wrc.com website.
“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.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Alison Williams and Ed Osmond