New champion Tanak has just been incredible, salutes Meeke
Kris Meeke could only watch in admiration as his Toyota team-mate Ott Tanak captured the World Rally Championship with a round to spare in Spain.
The Estonian snatched second place and maximum Power Stage points yesterday with a late charge which ensured he will be champion for the first time even if Hyundai's Thierry Neuville, who dominated the Spanish round, wins again on the final event in Australia.
But Meeke was left frustrated after being unable to contribute to the Toyota team effort, his Saturday morning crash ruling him out of contention just when he had been released to try to chase down the all-Hyundai top three of Neuville, Sebastien Loeb and Dani Sordo.
He picked off Sordo on the first of the Saturday stages but clouted a barrier with the rear of his Yaris, breaking the rear suspension and being forced to sit out the rest of the day. It was a huge blow, not just to the Ulsterman but the team, too, who now face an almost impossible task in trying to overhaul Hyundai in the race for the Manufacturers' Championship.
Meeke tried to play his part yesterday by backing off during the Power Stage so as not to risk taking vital bonus points away from Tanak.
"As it turned out, Ott didn't need any help. He hasn't needed any help all season, really," said Meeke. "He's been incredible; in fact, by far and away the strongest guy in terms of speed and consistency this year and thoroughly deserves to be champion."
Neuville won by 17 seconds ahead of Tanak with Sordo and Loeb third and fourth, Meeke's other team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala fifth and Ford's Elfyn Evans sixth.
Meanwhile, former champion Donagh Kelly, in just his second outing in his new R5 VW Polo, took a comfortable win in the final round of the Triton Showers Irish National Championship, the Fastnet Rally, finishing ahead of the Ford Escort of last year's winner Damian Tourish.
Elsewhere, four-time British champion Colin Turkington, making a late appearance as stand-in for Rob Huff in the 333 Racing Volkswagen team, had to settle for a fourth and fifth place in the final two rounds of the Chinese Touring Car Championship at Zhouzhou.
But fellow Portadown driver Adam Carroll, the former A1GP champion, was back on the top of the podium after winning the Ferrari Challenge Europe round at Mugello in Italy.