2016 WRC season review: Ogier champion, Tänak is the Driver of the Year
The 2016 World Rally Championship season would be remembered as a farewell year for Volkswagen Motorsport, which clinched fourth consecutive title sweep with outstanding Volkswagen Polo R WRC. Sebastien Ogier continued his championship-winning streak, taking his fourth title with six wins in thirteen events.
Hyundai interrupted Volkswagen’s domination
Unlike in the previous seasons dominated by Volkswagen crews, when they scored 1-2-3 results, Hyundai Motorsport’s drivers broke that domination. Thierry Neuville finished second in the championship, for the second time in his career. Andreas Mikkelsen was third again, for the third year in a row. For Jari-Matti Latvala, it was a season to forget, as he finished sixth in the points, behind two Hyundai drivers Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo.
M-Sport’s Mads Ostberg finished seventh in the points, four places ahead of his teammate Eric Camilli, for whom it was a debut year in the WRC machine. The 8th-placed Ott Tanak was the second-best Ford’s driver, in DMACK’s Fiesta. A part-time schedule drivers Kris Meeke and Craig Breen completed the Top 10 in the final classification for 2016 season.
Six teams full time, Citroen in eight rounds
The 44th season of the World Rally Championship started in January with 84th Rallye Monte-Carlo. Three manufacturers with six teams announced a full-time participation in the championship – Volkswagen and Hyundai with two factory teams each, Ford with two private teams: M-Sport WRT and DMACK WRT. Citroen’s drivers were also on the starting grid, as French manufacturer announced a part-time schedule for 2016 season, taking a sabbatical year to focus on a development of new Citroen C3 WRC for 2017 season.
Sebastien Ogier started a season with Monte-Carlo victory, his third in a row in the principality. Three weeks later, Ogier added one more win, being fastest at Rally Sweden. It was his third win in Sweden. The event was marked by the cancellation of eight stages because of lack of snow. Latvala continued Volkswagen’s winning streak in Mexico, scoring his 16th WRC win in a career, the first ever in Mexico. It remained his only victory in 2016.
Paddon’s joy in Argentina, Tanak’s sorrow in Poland
Hayden Paddon made a history at Rally Argentina, winning the race and becoming the first ever New Zealander to scored a victory in a top class rally competition. At Rally Portugal, it was Kris Meeke’s turn to climb on the highest step of the podium, scoring his second win of a career. Rally Italia Sardegna was the third rally in a row without Volkswagen drivers on the top spot, as Thierry Neuville scored his second career’s victory.
Volkswagen Polo R WRC was fastest again on the ultrafast Rally Poland. Andreas Mikkelsen took his second win in a career, beating Ott Tanak. The Estonian was so close to his maiden victory, running as the leader until the penultimate stage when a puncture slowed him down. At Rally Finland, Kris Meeke scored his third win of a career, ahead of Latvala. Meeke’s younger teammate Craig Breen reached a podium with a third-place finish, his first WRC podium in a career.
Four wins in a row for Ogier to secure the title
After six events without wins of reigning world champion, everybody was asking was Sebastien Ogier forget how to win. He returned to the top podium spot at ADAC Rallye Deutschland, and then three more times in France, Spain and Wales. He secured a title after Catalunyan victory, two rounds before the end of the championship. The championship season was shortened because the flood forced organizers to cancel Rally China, scheduled for September.
Prior to season’s finale in Australia, Volkswagen Motorsport announced its withdrawal from the WRC. So, it was a matter of pride to take one more final victory in the last event. And they did it, with Andreas Mikkelsen scoring his third career’s win. As Thierry Neuville finished on the podium, the victory didn’t help Mikkelsen to progress in the championship classification, the Belgian collected six points more.
WRC fans love Ott Tanak
The 2016 WRC season was closed at FIA Gala Awards event in Sydney, immediately after the last round. Besides official award winners, the biggest applause went to Estonian Ott Tänak, who gets the WRC Driver of the Year award, as voted for by fans on the championship’s official wrc.com website.
Thousands of fans recognized his effort during the season to fight against factory drivers, finishing as a runner-up in Poland and Wales in DMACK’s Ford Fiesta. As we mentioned before, he missed a victory in Poland because of a puncture in the penultimate stage. Tänak’s emotional reaction at the end of the rally, after which world champion Sebastien Ogier carried him on his shoulders as fellow drivers applauded, also earned him the Michelin Magic Moment award.