Sebastien Ogier has won Rally Australia and is now eyeing a second overall driver’s crown.
World champion Sebastien Ogier claimed a well-controlled win at Rally Australia to set himself up nicely for a second driver’s title at his home event in France next month.
On Sunday the Volkswagen driver headed home the first podium sweep for the German manufacturer since it joined the WRC in 2013 on the NSW north coast.
With three World Championship Rally events left on the calendar, Ogier (214 points) needs only to finish inside the top ten at Rally de France to make it impossible for nearest rival Jari-Matti Latvala (164 points) to overhaul him.
The team has also wrapped the manufacturer’s crown for 2014, with three rallies to go.
“It was amazing to head the one-two-three for the team. We are here first for Volkswagen, and I am so happy for the team,” said Ogier.
“It is a great step toward my championship as well.”
Finnish driver Latvala chased Ogier all day, but was unable to overcome a time gap that fluctuated over the six stages but ended at 6.8 seconds.
He took some solace by beating Ogier in the final power stage, claiming three bonus championship points.
“I tried to push a bit, but I didn’t take any risks,” said Latvala. “We just needed to focus on our own driving.”
Norwegian youngster Andreas Mikkelsen finished an excellent third (1min 18secs behind) in his Polo.
Citroen driver Kris Meeke recovered from a one-minute penalty overnight to consolidate a fine fourth spot.
“This is my strongest performance to date. I’m enjoying my time here, and I’ll keep working at catching the guys in front,” said Meeke.
It was an outstanding rally for young New Zealander Hayden Paddon, who brought his Hyundai home in sixth, beating his more fancied teammate Thierry Neuville.
“All in all, it’s a great result, and there’s a lot more to come,” said Paddon.
Queenslander Chris Atkinson finished in tenth, after a tough weekend of road-sweeping for the leading drivers.
“It’s been a tough weekend, and it’s my worst finish at Rally Australia,” said Atkinson.
“But I’ve really enjoyed being back in a WRC car, and hopefully I’ll be back here next year.”