Star drivers from the WRC joined team bosses and championship officials for a sparkling finale to a dramatic FIA World Rally Championship season in Sydney on Monday night.
More than 200 guests, including showbusiness celebrities and dignitaries from the New South Wales capital, celebrated the campaign at the WRC Gala Awards in the historic Rocks area, in the shadow of the famous Harbour Bridge.
Ott Tänak carried off the top award of WRC Driver of the Year, as voted for by fans on the championship’s official wrc.com website.
The popular Estonian finished runner-up in Poland and Britain in a Ford Fiesta RS, coming within an ace of his maiden victory in the Polish fixture before a puncture in the penultimate speed test cruelly denied him.
Tänak’s emotional reaction at the end of the rally, after which world champion Sébastien Ogier carried him on his shoulders as fellow drivers applauded, also earned him the Michelin Magic Moment award.
Nicolas Gilsoul, co-driver to Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville, was voted WRC Co-driver of the Year. The Belgian clinched the runners-up spot in the championship at the final round Kennards Hire Rally Australia 24 hours earlier.
Kiwi Hayden Paddon won the Certina Timing Award after hurtling his Hyundai i20 down the famous El Condor mountain to outgun Ogier in YPF Rally Argentina’s Power Stage and secure his maiden win.
Italian Lorenzo Bertelli’s sparkling mirror-finish Fiesta RS wowed the voters to win the WRC 6 Livery of the Year, and Andreas Mikkelsen’s high-flying leap over the famous Fafe jump in Portugal earned him the DJI Aerial Award.
Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets accepted a special trophy on behalf of the team after completing a fourth consecutive clean sweep of the drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.
Rally Australia marked the final event for the squad after the announcement earlier this month that the German manufacturer was axing its WRC programme.
Tim Gilbert, a sports presenter from Australia’s Channel Nine network, hosted the evening at the Museum of Contemporary Art.
The event was organised by Rally Australia and WRC Promoter, with support from CAMS, motorsport’s governing body in Australia.
The full list of award winners was:
WRC Driver of the Year – Ott Tänak
WRC Co-driver of the Year – Nicolas Gilsoul
DJI Aerial Award – Andreas Mikkelsen, Fafe jump, Portugal
WRC 6 Livery of the Year – Lorenzo Bertelli
Michelin Magic Moment – Ott Tänak
Certina Timing Award – Hayden Paddon
Special Award – Volkswagen Motorsport
Lexar Photograph of the Year – Gergely Makai, Rally Racing, Hungary
Best News Story of the Year – Jerome Bourret, L’Equipe, France
The 2017 championship starts at Rallye Monte-Carlo on 19 – 22 January and marks the return of former world champions Toyota and Citroën to the series. New rules promise extra power, lighter cars, bigger rear wings and more aggressive looking challengers.