FRENCHMAN Sébastien Ogier has tightened the battle for the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship with an epic victory in Daysinsure Wales Rally GB – and predicts his bid for a six-straight drivers’ title will be decided in Australia in less than six weeks’ time.
The M-Sport Ford driver secured a record fifth victory in the British classic after an enthralling final-leg duel through the north Wales forests with Jari-Matti Latvala, who came home just 10.6 seconds behind.
Latvala’s Toyota teammate Esapekka Lappi finished a further 24.5 sec. back, in third place.
The championship is now poised for its closest finish in years. Leader Thierry Neuville, Ogier and Ott Tänak are covered by just 21 points, with only Rally Spain to go before the season finale at Kennards Hire Rally Australia here on the Coffs Coast on November 15-18.
"I’m looking forward to Spain now, where we can perform well I think, followed by Australia where it will probably all be decided,” Ogier said.
“I’m sure the fans will love a close fight and I’m excited for the end of the season.”
Ogier’s title hopes were hanging by a thread on Friday morning when a broken gearbox plunged the Ford Fiesta driver to eighth, but he charged up the leader board as his championship rivals encountered their own problems.
Victory and three bonus points from Sunday’s Power Stage moved Ogier to within seven championship points of Neuville, who scrambled back to finish fifth after sliding his Hyundai into a sodden ditch on Saturday.
Tänak, winner of the last three rallies in Finland, Germany and Turkey, dominated on the muddy, foggy Welsh stages until retiring his Toyota Yaris with a broken radiator on Saturday afternoon. He rejoined on Sunday to claim 19th outright, but left Wales with only four Power Stage bonus points to boost his tally.
The penultimate round is the mixed surface RallyRACC Catalunya - Rally de España, which is based in Salou on October 25-28.
Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the Coffs Coast will be the 13th and final round of the 2018 WRC and will also feature the decider between four contenders for the CAMS Australian Rally Championship.
Tickets are on sale at www.rallyaustralia.com.au. A variety of viewing options is available, including the $99 Get Me Everywhere pass with adult access to all stages over three days.
Highlight attractions include:
Thursday-Sunday: Pedders Rally Central service park (C.ex Coffs International Stadium, 7am-8pm, free entry)
Thursday: Rally Show and Ceremonial Start (Coffs Harbour Jetty Foreshores, 4pm, free entry)
Friday: Destination NSW Super Special Stage (Coffs Harbour Jetty Foreshores, gates open 2pm, finish 7.30pm, ticket required)
Saturday: Raceway Special Stage (Raleigh, first car 9.47am, ticket required); Destination NSW Super Special Stage (Coffs Harbour Jetty Foreshores, gates open 2pm, finish 7.30pm, ticket required)
Sunday: Forests NSW Rally Village & finish podium presentation (Wedding Bells Special Stage, first car 8.40am, ticket required)
Rally Australia is supported by the NSW Government via its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.