Ogier heads VW 1-2-3 in Australia
Volkswagen secures manufacturers’ world title
Sébastien Ogier led Volkswagen’s first podium clean sweep at Coates Hire Rally Australia as the German squad secured its second consecutive FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title.
The Frenchman held off Jari-Matti Latvala in a tense final leg to win the three-day gravel event in New South Wales by 6.8sec in a Polo R. Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium lockout in third, a further 1min 11.2sec behind.
Ogier’s 22nd career win, and his sixth of the season, moved him closer to a second consecutive drivers’ title. He leads Latvala by 50 points with three rounds remaining and could secure the crown at his home rally next month.
Volkswagen’s dominance was emphasised by the fact that the manufacturers’ title has not been decided so early in the season since 1989.
Jari-Matti Latvala - could not catch Ogier
Ogier acknowledged his victory was not achieved with the same dominance as his 2013 win.
“This year it wasn’t possible to have that. Jari-Matti was strong but today I knew that without mistakes I would be OK. I tried to stay concentrated, pushing when it was clean and being more cautious in the tricky parts. It wasn’t a big winning margin but enough to win the rally and another crucial step towards winning the title,” he said.
Latvala held a slender lead until the pendulum swung Ogier’s way on Saturday afternoon. Although rain was forecast, he opted for harder compound Michelin tyres than Latvala.
The gamble worked as the rain stayed away and Latvala’s tyres overheated in the warm weather. Ogier turned a four second deficit into a nine second advantage in just one stage, a blow from which Latvala could not recover.
Kris Meeke - fourth after penalty
Mikkelsen fought tooth and nail with Kris Meeke for the final podium place. But after Meeke was penalised more than a minute on Saturday night for cutting a corner illegally, the Norwegian cruised to his fourth podium of the year.
The penalty dropped Meeke’s Citroen DS3 behind Mikko Hirvonen, but the Northern Ireland driver moved back into fourth to head the Finn’s Ford Fiesta RS by 9.6sec.
Hayden Paddon matched a career-best sixth in a Hyundai i20. He dueled with Mads Østberg until the Norwegian’s DS3 suffered broken rear right suspension in the penultimate stage and dropped off the leaderboard.
Thierry Neuville was seventh, having dropped time in the first day with broken suspension on his i20, ahead of Elfyn Evans.
Robert Kubica was ninth, despite losing more than a minute after crashing when distracted by a cockpit warning light, and Chris Atkinson completed the leaderboard in 10th.
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