When Toyota returned to the World Rally Championship in 2017, they were immediately met with success by clinching wins on their comeback to the sport. A year later, Toyota's success in the sport would continue when they clinched the manufacturer's crown in 2018. For them, the only thing missing was the driver's title.
In 2019, they finally did it within just two years after returning to the world rally stages. It's their first WRC driver's champion in 25 years with Estonian Ott Tanak at Rally Espana. Tanak's second place finish in the rally was enough for him to be crowned the champion weeks before the 2019 WRC finale in Australia. Before Tanak, Toyota's last driver's champion was Dider Auriol in 1994 with the iconic Celica GT-Four.
Not only is Tanak the first Estonian to win the driver's title, his win has broken the spell of French domination in the sport that had lasted for almost 15 years. It was Sebastien Loeb and Citroen that had a stronghold in the WRC from 2004 to 2012, while Sebastien Ogier raked in title after title from 2013 to 2018. Tanak also helped Toyota be the first Japanese automaker to have a champion driver in 16 years, the last being with Petter Solberg in a Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
To win the title, Tanak had to be in striking range of eventual runner up Thierry Neuville in a Hyundai. At first, it seemed Neuville would bring the title fight to Australia as the Belgian took the lead in the winding roads of Catalunya. Tanak on the other hand a relatively slow start to the rally, nowhere near the top three places for him to secure the title in Spain. However, subsequent stages saw Tanak climbing up the leaderboard, eventually closing in on Neuville. Neuville did eventually win the rally, but Tanak had done enough to clinch the championship at the penultimate round.
While the driver's championship is done and dusted, the manufacturer's title is still up for grabs at the next round in Australia. Hyundai leads with 380 points with Toyota close behind at 362 points. Should the Toyotas lead the pack there, it will be a double championship for the Japanese automaker.