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SYDNEY – Ott Tänak carried off the top accolade at the WRC Gala awards in Sydney on Monday night as his M-Sport team took a clean sweep of the major honours.

PHOTO: For the second year Ott Tänak received WRC’s Driver of the Year award at the annual Sydney Gala after Kennards Hire Rally Australia (Juris Puisens pic)

The Estonian was voted WRC Driver of the Year for a second consecutive season by fans on the FIA World Rally Championship’s official website.

Tänak claimed a popular maiden victory in Italy and landed a second success in Germany en route to a third place championship finish in M-Sport’s Ford Fiesta World Rally Car.

His co-driver and fellow countryman, Martin Järveoja, was named WRC Co-driver of the Year following an impressive debut WRC season with Tänak.

The private M-Sport World Rally Team, which toppled three of the world’s biggest car companies to win the drivers’ crown with Sébastien Ogier and a first manufacturers’ title for a decade, was named Team of the Year.

Almost 250 guests, including drivers and co-drivers, team bosses and championship officials, celebrated the most exciting and unpredictable season in a decade in the New South Wales capital.

They were joined by city dignitaries, including New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian, for the star-studded evening at the Museum of Contemporary Art, overlooking the Opera House and in the shadow of the famous Harbour Bridge.

M-Sport and Tänak shared another success when his Fiesta’s colour scheme wowed fans to win the WRC 7 Livery of the Year Award.

Thierry Neuville, who clinched the runner-up position in the championship at the final round Kennards Hire Rally Australia 24 hours earlier, was another multi-award winner.

The Belgian lifted two trophies, including the Certina Timing Feat Award for hurtling his Hyundai i20 down the famous El Condor mountain to claim a dramatic YPF Rally Argentina victory by 0.7sec – the third closest in WRC history.

Kris Meeke’s remarkable Mexico victory, when he crashed into a car park just 750 metres from the finish of the final live TV Power Stage before regaining the road to win, scored the Michelin Magic Moment award.

Esapekka Lappi’s high-flying leap over the famous Fafe jump in Portugal on his World Rally Car debut earned him the OneBet Jump of the Year.

Spectacular drone footage of Elfyn Evans speeding through a dramatic urban bridgescape in Argentina earned the Welshman the DJI Aerial Award.

The event was organised by WRC Promoter and Kennards Hire Rally Australia. Award-winning actor, comedian and TV celebrity Shane Jacobson, a former Top Gear Australia presenter, hosted the evening.

The full list of award winners was:

WRC Driver of the Year – Ott Tänak
WRC Co-driver of the Year – Martin Järveoja
Team of the Year – M-Sport World Rally Team
DJI Aerial Award – Elfyn Evans
WRC 7 Livery of the Year – M-Sport World Rally Team (Ott Tänak)
Michelin Magic Moment – Kris Meeke
OneBet Jump of the Year – Esapekka Lappi
Certina Timing Feat – Thierry Neuville
Most Stage Wins – Thierry Neuville
Lexar Photograph of the Year – François Baudin
News Item of the Year – Eric Bellegarde Social Media Star of the Year – Hayden Paddon

The 2018 season begins with a high-profile launch at the Autosport International show in Birmingham on 11 – 14 January. The opening fixture of the 13-round series is Rallye Monte-Carlo on 25 – 28 January, which starts in Monaco’s fashionable Casino Square.

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Chris Nixon

Chris Nixon is Media Manager for Kennards Hire Rally Australia.

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