Sixth WRC title for Ogier, Ingrassia after a drama down under
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia (M-Sport Ford) clinched their sixth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title after a chaotic last day at Rally Australia, finishing in the fifth place while their main rivals Thierry Neuville (Hyundai) and Ott Tanak (Toyota) crashed out in the closing stages.
Jari-Matti Latvala (Toyota) won the event, what was his only win in 2018 and the first WRC triumph since last year’s Rally Sweden. Latvala and his navigator Miikka Anttila shared a podium with Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai) and Mads Ostberg/Torstein Eriksen (Citroen). Esapekka Lappi (Toyota) finished fourth, ahead of Sebastien Ogier who finished the championship with a victory on the Power Stage, putting five additional points to his account.
That points were not decisive because main rivals crashed out and retired on the previous two stages. Ott Tanak retired from P2 on SS23 while Thierry Neuville hit the tree and stayed without a wheel on SS22 from the eighth place. Even in a case that Tanak and Neuville succeeded to finish the rally and Tanak won the event, Ogier will secure the title with the sixth-place finish.
On the last day of the rally, a heavy rain transformed the gravel forest roads into a muddy bath. It was all about a survival so Tanak and Neuville were keeping their title hopes alive, waiting for Ogier to make a mistake. But, they made mistakes while five-time champion showed a faultless drive to take his sixth title. Having nothing to lose on the last stage, Ogier could afford a celebratory drive through the final Power Stage, taking the last stage victory at the wheel of Ford Fiesta. As we know, Ogier would switch to Citroen in 2019.
Jari-Matti Latvala clinched his 18th WRC victory in a career, also setting a record of winning a WRC round in every season since 2008. His win also secured the manufacturers’ title for Toyota Gazoo Racing in its second season back in the WRC after a 17-year absence.
After 24 stages, Latvala had a 32.5sec advantage over Hayden Paddon. Mads Ostberg was further twenty seconds down in the third place. Esapekka Lappi, Seb Ogier, Elfyn Evans and Craig Breen were other Manufacturers’ entries among the points-scorers. WRC 2 winner Alberto Heller finished eighth overall in a Ford Fiesta R5, Australian champion Steve Glenney was ninth in a Škoda Fabia R5 while Greek driver Jourdan Serderidis took one point with the tenth place in a Ford Fiesta WRC.
At the end of one of the most exciting WRC season in recent years, world champion Sebastien Ogier has 219 points. The runner-up Thierry Neuville will leave Australia without new points, staying on 201, same as the third-placed Ott Tanak with 181 points. Victory in Australia promoted Jari-Matti Latvala to fourth place in the championship, just two points (128:126) ahead of teammate Esapekka Lappi.
In the Manufacturers’ standings, Toyota Gazoo Racing clinched a title with 368 points, 27 more than Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team. M-Sport WRT collected 324 points while Citroen is fourth with 237 points.