Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia won 19 Special Stages, bagged the maximum number of points and came within reach of the World Championship title. The two Frenchmen put in the performance of their lives and celebrated their sixth win this season in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC).
In the end, they were just one point short of securing the crown. Ogier/Ingrassia will go into the next round in France 83 points ahead of their closest rival, Thierry Neuville (Ford).
In the second Polo R WRC, Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) notched up important points for Volkswagen in the Manufacturers’ Championship by coming fourth. Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) finished the Rally Australia in sixth place overall.
Dominant Down Under – Ogier/Ingrassia unstoppable
22 Special Stages, 19 best times and second place twice – Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia put in their best performance of the season so far in Australia, giving them this season’s most overwhelming victory. Even more impressively, Ogier/Ingrassia were just 1.8 seconds shy of the ideal combination of all best times.
The teams faced wide-ranging conditions in Australia: the first day was hallmarked by technical, narrow, winding sections, day two’s Stages passed through more open countryside, and the third day of rallying was all about extremely fast sections through the rainforest.
Drama, drama, drama – title clincher postponed again
The Power Stage in Oz could have decided the World Championship title – but it didn’t. Extra points were awarded to the three fastest teams on the final “Shipmans” Stage with its spectacular watersplash. 15 kilometres before the end of the almost 30-kilometre Stage, events came thick and fast.
First of all, a puncture halted Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila’s attempt to collect an extra three points for best time. Then Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroën also got a puncture, which ultimately stopped Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia from sewing up the title. Hirvonen was forced out of second place overall by Thierry Neuville, who now still has a mathematical chance to become World Champion.
Volkswagen leaps forward in the Manufacturers’ Championship
The Rally Australia couldn’t have gone much better for Volkswagen in terms of the WRC Manufacturers’ Championship either – thanks to Ogier’s win and fourth place for Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), who racked up important points in the second Polo R WRC.
Despite a disappointing qualifying session, the Finnish pair fought their way up the overall standings bit by bit as the rally progressed. As a result, Volkswagen extended its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship by 22 points to 48. Latvala/Anttila won one of the Special Stages and finished in the top three a further ten times.
Andreas Mikkelsen led temporarily and finished in sixth, collecting valuable points
Andreas Mikkelsen/Paul Nagle (N/IRL) made a great impression during their debut in Australia. The very first Special Stage went to the duo in the Polo R WRC with the number nine. Mikkelsen/Nagle finished the first day of rallying – Thursday – in the lead.
Several little mistakes meant that the duo fell behind on Friday though before fighting their way back in the overall standings on Saturday. On Sunday, Mikkelsen/Nagle cleverly defended their position, which indirectly helped Volkswagen to further extend its lead in the Manufacturers’ Championship.
Jari-Matti Latvala, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #7: “Right from the start, we were aiming to collect as many points as possible for the Manufacturers’ Championship, and we succeeded. However, things didn’t go quite as smoothly as we would have liked – the car span and we had a puncture too right at the end.
For me, the rally felt a bit like we were struggling through the desert before finally arriving in Dakar at the end. But all that matters ultimately is the result, and it was a good one for Volkswagen. On another positive note, I found my Polo’s perfect set-up for fast gravel rallies here, which will come in very handy for other rallies.”
Sébastien Ogier, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #8: “What a crazy end to the rally! Of course I’m pleased to have won here in Australia, but it’s pretty disappointing to be on course to win the World Championship title the whole time and then lose it again in the last kilometre. Apart from that, it was a fantastic rally for us Down Under. We won 19 of the 22 Special Stages and collected three points in the Power Stage too.
The Polo R WRC worked perfectly throughout the weekend, the team did a great job – but in the end we just weren’t quite lucky enough to make the dream of winning the crown come true today. We’re going to celebrate in style afterwards all the same. And when tomorrow comes, I’ll start looking forward to my home rally and the fans in France. I want to clinch the title there by winning and take my team a big step closer to winning the Manufacturers’ Championship.”
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen Polo R WRC #9: “The Rally Australia had its ups and downs for me. On Thursday, I had a chance to savour the feeling of leading in a World Championship rally for the first time. Friday got off to a great start, but little mistakes cost us a lot of time. I had to pay for them again on Saturday as one of the first World Rally Cars on the track. And Sunday? I did all I could to get the car over the line and help the team in the Manufacturer’s Championship.
That meant going into ‘cruise mode’ and not going on the attack. I’m sure it would have been more fun if we’d done things differently. All in all, we’re really pleased with sixth place though. It was a good debut at the Rally Australia for us, and it was great working with my co-driver Paul Nagle, who stepped in for my usual partner Mikko Markkula at short notice.”
Jost Capito, Volkswagen Motorsport Director: “The Rally Australia became really dramatic in the last few kilometres. From the point of view of the Manufacturers’ Championship, everything that happened in the Power Stage was good for Volkswagen. Unfortunately, it also meant that Sébastien Ogier was unable to clinch the title early. He did a fantastic job, won more convincingly than at any other event this season, and did everything right.
He would’ve deserved to go away as World Rally Champion today, but the decider will have to wait. Now he’s got the opportunity to seize the title once and for all at his home rally in France. The whole team will support him unconditionally. The battle for the WRC Manufacturers’ Championship will enter its next phase in France too. Thanks to Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen, we’re in a better position on that front than we were before the Rally Australia. We’re really happy – even though the icing on the cake is missing.”