Sebastien Ogier proved unbeatable in Coates Hire Rally Australia today as he won all six speed tests to more than double his lead to 45.9sec with one day remaining in this 10th round of the FIA World Rally Championship.
The Frenchman won all four country stages in his Volkswagen Polo R before rounding the day off with victory in both arena tests in downtown Coffs Harbour. He has won 14 of the 16 stages to date.
Ogier started the day with a 20.0sec advantage over Mikko Hirvonen’s Citroen DS3 but nobody got close to him on the roads south-west of Coffs Harbour, which included two passes over the monster 50km Nambucca test.
“Our rally was perfect today but the final leg will be tough so we have to keep our concentration and focus,” said Ogier, who could secure his maiden world title at tomorrow afternoon’s finish.
A thick coating of gravel made conditions slippery during this morning’s first pass of the stages. The roads were cleaner this afternoon and Hirvonen was untroubled as he widened the gap over third-placed Thierry Neuville to 25.5sec.
Neuville took no risks, checking his pace notes at rally pace this morning before upping his speed this afternoon to set top three times. “We have been quite clever. We discovered the roads the first time through because they were new and went faster in the second pass when we knew them better,” said the Ford Fiesta RS pilot.
Kris Meeke was on course to retain fourth until he crashed in the second pass through Nambucca, his Citroen DS3 rolling seven times.
“I went into a second gear corner 5-10kph too fast,” explained Meeke. “I thought I’d got away with it, but the car just slipped off the road. It nearly stopped, but unfortunately there was a very steep bank down into a field and it just kept tumbling.”
The beneficiary was Jari-Matti Latvala, who came out on top of a three-car fight with Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Ostberg. He punctured the rear right tyre on his Polo R after hitting a bank this morning but the Finn was more settled than yesterday.
Mikkelsen lies fifth, 23.2sec behind his Volkswagen colleague, but was caught out by the same bend as Latvala. He ended the test with a tyre partly off the rim in his Polo R but held off Mads Ostberg by 2.5sec tonight.
Ostberg was only a second behind Latvala until a high-speed spin into a ditch in the final country stage cost the Fiesta RS driver 20 seconds.
Evgeny Novikov lies seventh in a similar car, despite losing more than two minutes with a left rear puncture. However, the Russian has a comfortable 2min 34sec advantage over Nathan Quinn’s Mini John Cooper Works, Quinn delighting his home town fans on his World Rally Car debut.
Khalid Al Qassimi is ninth in a DS3 with WRC 2 leader Abdulaziz Al Kuwari rounding off the top 10 in a Fiesta RRC.
Tomorrow’s final leg leaves Coffs Harbour at 08.00 and heads north for two identical loops of three tests covering 125.14km before the afternoon finish back in the town.