The Volkswagen Motorsport crew of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia came within moments of sealing the FIA World Rally Championship title in Australia today, denied the crown as Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul climbed into second position in the final stage when Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen had a puncture and dropped to third, providing one of the most thrilling finishes this season.
In the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers, Ogier has missed claiming the title by just one point, setting the scene for an epic battle on the next round in France when fellow countryman and reigning World Champion Sébastien Loeb will be back in the seat of the Citroën DS3 WRC. The fight for the FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers also continues but Volkswagen Motorsport has increased its lead over the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team following the retirement of Kris Meeke after the final stage this afternoon.
Today’s competition took in two identical loops of three stages covering 125.14 competitive kilometres, the final run through ‘Shipmans’ counting as the Power Stage where additional Championship points are awarded to the fastest three drivers in this single stage. And it was here that the drama unfolded, and it was Neuville’s second position in the rally as well as the Power Stage that denied Ogier of his first world title. The Frenchman nevertheless claimed his 13th World Rally victory and sixth this season. Behind the dramatic turn of events in the final stage, fourth was claimed by Jari-Matti Latvala, the Finn also losing time with a puncture in the final stage, and fifth was taken by Mads Østberg, the Norwegian moving ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen in the first stage of the day. Evgeny Novikov finished seventh ahead of local hero Nathan Quinn. Kris Meeke, who rolled on Saturday, restarted this morning under Rally 2 regulations but damaged rear suspension in the final stage saw him ultimately unable to return to the finish in Coffs Harbour.
The 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship takes the contenders back to Europe for Rallye de France Alsace (3-6 October). Here, nine-time World Rally Champions Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena will re-join the series for their final outing in the Championship.
Rally Australia – Final Unofficial Classification (subject to scrutineering)