The final three stages of Rally Australia and the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship delivered yet more drama, but Sebastien Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia clinched their sixth consecutive world title together after late challenges from Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville ended in accidents.
Jari-Matti Latvala powered to victory on the final round of the series and in doing so helped secure the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers for his Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team.
Going into the final stages Ogier only needed to finish sixth, such were the positions of his championship rivals. The Frenchman had adopted a safe rhythm the whole day and could watch the drama unfold over the closing three stages.
In the first, Neuville swiped a bank and ripped the left-rear wheel from his Hyundai, instantly ending a season-long battle for a maiden title. In the penultimate stage of the rally, Tanak — who was set to re-inherit the lead from teammate Latvala to give him every possible chance of a title challenge — retired after hitting a tree and losing drive. With that, Ogier’s sixth title was assured and the Frenchman then flew through the final Power Stage to take the stage win and another five points.
“It’s been such an intense season,” said Ogier. “It was almost the last stage of the rally when we won so, of course, the pressure was high. But the moment it happened was a bit strange; when Ott stopped we were in the road section — it was killing a little bit the moment. But then it’s relief. We made it after definitely the toughest fight we had to do. But this is a great feeling.”
With the retirement of Tanak, Latvala was free to secure his first WRC win since Sweden in 2017. The Finn, competing in his 195th world rally, claimed two of the stage wins this afternoon and ultimately took victory by 32.5 seconds over Hayden Paddon. Mads Ostberg also moved up the order courtesy of Tanak’s retirement and the Norwegian took the final podium position after a weekend of ups and downs.
Esapekka Lappi’s fourth position also helped secure Toyota the manufacturer title. The Finn had been aware all day that he had to stay on the road and finish the event to assure the team of the title in only its second year back in the FIA WRC after a 17-year absence. Behind fifth-placed Ogier was Elfyn Evans and seventh was taken by Craig Breen. The Irish driver had a nightmare afternoon that saw him go off the road and spin four times over the three stages. Teemu Suninen retired his Fiesta before the final stage following an impact in the previous stage.
Chilean Alberto Heller secured their first win in the FIA WRC 2 Championship category and headed Gianluca Linari in the standings.
Rally Australia – Final unofficial results (subject to final scrutineering)
|1||Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila||Toyota Yaris WRC||2hr 59min 52.0sec|
|2||Hayden Paddon / Sebastian Marshall||Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC||3hr 00min 24.5sec|
|3||Mads Ostberg / Torstein Eriksen||Citroen C3 WRC||3hr 00min 44.2sec|
|4||Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm||Toyota Yaris WRC||3hr 00min 54.3sec|
|5||Sebastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 02min 22.8sec|
|6||Elfyn Evans / Daniel Barritt||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 02min 57.1sec|
|7||Craig Breen / Scott Martin||Citroen C3 WRC||3hr 08min 51.0sec|
|8||Alberto Heller / Jose Diaz||Ford Fiesta R5||3hr 22min 20.5sec|
|9||Steve Glenney / Andy Sarandis||Škoda Fabia R5||3hr 26min 53.8sec|
|10||Jourdan Serderidis / Lara Vaneste||Ford Fiesta WRC||3hr 35min 06.1sec|