Which stages had the best battles to the second? Which power stages robbed rally leaders of their victories? Which stages turned into junkyards of rally cars? It Gets Faster Now! goes through the ten most dramatic stages of the 2019 season.
Stages are listed in chronological order. Cover image by Richard Simpson (C).
1. La Cabanette – Col de Braus (Monte Carlo)
The first power stage of the season saw Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville battle for the win of the rally. Ogier had struggled with the Citroen C3 WRC’s performance the whole day, but he managed to clinch together something extra for this very stage. Meanwhile, Kris Meeke was 3.9 seconds faster than anyone else on his first rally with the Toyota Yaris WRC.
2. Calvi (Corsica)
Elfyn Evans could have taken his second WRC victory if it wasn’t for a pothole in this Corsican road that they hadn’t driven before. Limping with a puncture dropped him two positions, and a podium wasn’t much of a consolation.
3. Cuchilla Nevada – Characato (Argentina)
A controversy was created through a corner with two possible routes and a gate post between them. In the previous years, the shorter route was used, but for this year the road book advised to go through the longer route. Kris Meeke, Ott Tänak and Mads Østberg were penalized for using the shortcut, whereas Sebastien Ogier hit the gatepost while changing his mind at the last moment
4. Maria Las Cruces (Chile)
As if Kris Meeke driving without a windscreen (which he was subsequently penalized for) wasn’t enough, Thierry Neuville crashed out big-time. He was clearly pushing, coming off a stage win and being only less than two seconds from the runner-up position. However, he misjudged this sideways crest.
5. Fafe (Portugal)
The first pass of this legendary stage ended Esapekka Lappi’s rally with broken rear suspension, whereas he had rolled already on the previous stage.
But it didn’t end there. On the power stage run, Gus Greensmith’s steering broke at the tip of the infamous jump, taking him off the road just before the checkered flag.
Not only youngsters crashed, as Sebastien Loeb made the same mistake as Lappi. Loeb’s rally might have been already over on the first day with fuel pressure issues, but Kris Meeke could have taken a podium. However, a tree stump early on the stage decided otherwise.
Finally, Ott Tänak deliberately slowed down at the end of the stage in order not to gain too much extra power stage points. This way he made sure Sebastien Ogier would start first on the road in the next gravel rally, Sardegna.
6. Sassari – Argentiera (Sardegna)
This power stage first gave us a battle of seconds for the fourth position between Elfyn Evans and Andreas Mikkelsen, which the latter won. However, considerably more dramatic was the sudden steering failure on Ott Tänak’s Toyota Yaris. He didn’t say anything at the finish line, but you could see in his eyes that he had had enough with the car.
7. Kakaristo (Finland)
The current variant of Ouninpohja caused minor offs for Toyota drivers Jari-Matti Latvala and Kris Meeke on the same corner on the small road section. Meeke had to retire for the day, whereas Latvala survived with a puncture, but Toyota was robbed off its possible 1-2-3.
8. Panzerplatte (Deutschland)
This long stage had extremely rough concrete sections this year. During its two runs, it caused punctures for both Sebastien Ogier and Thierry Neuville, effectively sealing the win of Ott Tänak.
9. Çetibeli (Turkey)
First of all, Ott Tänak was struck with a puncture on this long and rough stage. However, him, Thierry Neuville and Sebastien Ogier were the only ones to make it through the stage in dry conditions, as the rain made the stage extremely slippery (just ask Kris Meeke (or don’t)). However, Esapekka Lappi managed magically to almost match Neuville’s stage win in the tricky conditions!
10. La Mussara (Catalunya)
What turned out to be the final stage of the year, sealed the drivers title for Ott Tänak. The blistering drive lifted him to second position and gave full five power stage points.