For the last 15 years both manufacturers and drivers WRC title hasn’t been open before the last event. Sebastien Ogier, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak were fighting for the drivers title and Toyota and Hyundai for the manufacturers title. The situation meant that Toyota need to have two cars in top five for sealing the manufacturers title. And for Ott Tänak he need to win the rally and other drivers need to have unfortunate for the title.
Motivation was high to help our team to win the manufacturers WRC title and try to compensate last years retirement three kilometres before the end of the rally by my own mistake.
Two first days we drove in the dry conditions and we were very competitive and had no issues. Everything seems to be allright because we were on the position one and two after saturday. I was even leading the rally in saturday morning but in the afternoon I drove too aggressively and my tyres were worn too much. With those worn tyres I wasn’t drive my best speed and in the super special stage there were wet conditions but we managed to go through the day.
It started to rain in sunday morning and roads were extremely slippery and that suits for me. In the tricky conditions we were able to make gap, nevertheless it wasn’t easy. Both Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak had to retire in the last day because off accident. That meant that Sebastien Ogier was able to confirm WRC title with the careful driving.
Sunday was the great success for me, I kept car on the road with my controlled driving. It meant victory for us and at the same time it confirmed manufacturers title for Toyota Gazoo Racing. I had already gave up the idea of winning the event in season 2018 but luckily we managed with it. Hayden Paddon was second and Mads Östberg was third.
It was really interesting event coming because both manufacturers and drivers WRC titles were open and top of that Sebastien Loeb was participating. Gravel stages were traditional but quite many of them reversed compared to the earlier years.
The car felt really nice from the start of the rally and feeling was really nice. We were in the really good pace, but on the stage 4 La Fatarella I hit the loose rock that caused a puncture to the left rear tyre. I drove more than 10 kilometre with the broken tyre and that broke the side of the car and I were really pissed off. I haven’t been so angry at the end of stage for a while, but there was fastest time coming in that stage without that puncture, but now I lost 40 seconds. I got some power from that anger and we had really nice speed during the rest of the day. At the evening I had climbed up to the fifth place from place 10.
The second day of the rally started in wet tarmac and cars were changed to the tarmac setup. Because it was so wet I choose the wet condition tyres and those were working really nicely. I drove with wet condition tyres for all day and because of the puncture for Ott Tänak I was leading the rally after two days. I had made right tyre choises and driving had been really smooth and relaxed.
In the sunday morning weather was quite cold but roads were drying because of the wind. Sebastien Loeb took a risk with hard tyre compound and he beat all the other top drivers who had choose the soft compound. Before the last stage of the rally I was 7,1 seconds of the Loebs lead and I decided to fight for the victory. Hard attack didn’t pay off and I hit the railing post and that disabled steering. I drove carefully to the end and we dropped to the eight place.
Sebastien Loeb did the magnificent performance and won the WRC event after five years. Ogier was second and Elfyn Evans was third.
This was my 17th start in a row in Rally Wales GB. There were two whole new special stages (Penmachno and Elsi) and also some new sections in other stages too. Rally took place three weeks earlier than normally and the weather was a bit warmer. Still there has been raining quite a lot and the roads were muddy clayey. In the saturday afternoon sun was drying the roads.
I wasn’t at my best pace at the start and there were some small mistakes and our gap to the lead was quite long, although some special stages were quite good. In the friday night the gap to the rally leader Tänak was 31 seconds.
In the saturday morning we drove my favourite special stage Myherin, I must say that it went really bad. Afterwards that anger from poor driving gave me new energy and I was able to attack. Tänak retired due the technical problem in the saturday and that changed the things in a way that I was competing with Ogier for the win.
In the sunday morning Ogier was leading by 4,4 seconds. I attacked hard in the first stage of the day and we were even in the ditch, but the speed was in the same level as Ogier had and we were able to narrow the lead. Before the last two stages I was in the lead. Somehow Ogier was able to even drive faster and I couldn’t respond to that speed. At the end I lost 10,6 seconds because in the last tarmac stage I need to gave up, because I hit the kerbstone slightly and I felt that something was wrong with car and I slowed down.
In any case that second position in the podium felt good after five years. Esapekka Lappi was third which meant nice points for the manufacturers championship.