World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier has regained the Rally Australia lead after a tyre-choice gamble paid off in Coffs Harbour.
Frenchman Sebastien Ogier has snatched back the lead at the World Rally Championship event at Coffs Harbour in a thrilling afternoon of flat-out gravel racing.
Showers were forecast to arrive at Rally Australia mid-way through Saturday afternoon’s pair of stages, meaning that many drivers had to gamble heavily on the correct tyre choice.
Ogier opted to take three hard-compound tyres and one soft-compound tyre for his VW Polo R WRC.
His teammate – and championship rival – Jari-Matti Latvala opted for a full set of softs.
The rain showers never materialised, the soft tyres wore out more quickly, and Ogier put 14 seconds into his Finnish teammate over four stages and 60km of flat-out rallying.
“Having one soft tyre was not ideal, but I made a better choice than Jari-Matti,” said Ogier.
“As the driver, I have the final say, and this time it worked out.”
Latvala was left ruing his choice, but pointed out that there is still 100km of competitive running left on Sunday.
“And as we know, anything can still happen,” he said.
The WRC round in Germany in August saw the top three drivers crash out on the final afternoon of competition.
The third VW of Andreas Mikkelsen sits just one second behind Citroen driver Kris Meeke.
The Irishman had expected to drop “at least seven seconds” to Mikkelsen in the short Super Special Stage at the Coffs Harbour Showground, but only lost 1.7 seconds.
A large, enthusiastic crowd witnessed a great spectacle, with former Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica completing both his passes with no rear tyres on his Ford Fiesta WRC car.
New Zealander Hayden Paddon remains the best of the Australian-New Zealand contingent, holding down an impressive seventh place in just his fifth drive in a WRC car.
Queensland’s Chris Atkinson continues to struggle, and puts it down to a lack of match practice.
“It’s not ideal for sure. It’s been a tough weekend, and it doesn’t help running first on the road,” he said.
“It’s not the car. I just haven’t been able to get in the rhythm. The feeling’s just not there this weekend.”