In another dominant display, Sebastien Ogier has earned his sixth World Rally Championship (WRC) title after the Rally Australia event concluded over the weekend, in Coffs Harbour.
It ends the calendar of Rally across the globe, but with an ‘all too familiar’ outcome that reaffirms the French drivers status as a modern great. His name can now sit beside multiple champions, such as Sébastien Loeb and Tommi Mäkinen.
The Kennards Hire Rally Australia finished on Sunday, with Ogier taking the 2018 title, from challenges by Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak. But as has occurred over recent years, the Frenchman and co-driver Julien Ingrassia (see below image) were again incomparable and ended the year with an 18 point advantage.
The 2018 championship came right down to the final day of the Rally, with Tanak and Neuville looking to end the day ahead of the M-Sport Ford driver. But after they both crashed out of contention, Ogier ended the day in fifth place overall – enough to secure his sixth WRC Championship.
All that drama means one thing, we did it, @SebOgier and Julien have claimed their sixth FIA World Rally Championship!! A massive team effort and the perfect way to say farewell after two very special years together 🏆 #CHAMPIONS #WRC #FordPerformance #RallyAustralia pic.twitter.com/qRfdS57VxL
— M-Sport (@MSportLtd) November 18, 2018
Sebastien Ogier earns Sixth WRC Championship at Rally Australia
The results over this season again reinforced the consistency and driving skills of the 34-year old. Four times he won a 2018 Rally outright, two-second placings and a high number of placings that put pressure on other drivers to stop him from continuing his amazing sequence of titles.
While Neuville and Tanak pushed hard, along with Jari-Matti Latvala – who claimed the Rally Australia title – none could knock Ogier off the top perch. Just as in the past, in each new season, with each new challenge, the established pace-setter has, again and again, did enough to endure in the challenging environment of the FIA World Rally.
“It’s been an incredible season, so close.”
“Not so long ago we were thinking it was going to be tough to grab this title but we never gave up. We gave everything, with a fantastic team behind us who kept fighting and in the end we grabbed it in the last rally. It’s so emotional,” Ogier. told WRC.com.
And wanting to set new challenges for himself, Ogier and his co-driver will switch from the Ford Fiesta to the Citroën in 2019. It will be his third manufacturer; after terms with Volkswagon (2013-16), and Ford (2017-18). The new car will test Ogier’s abilities while other teams settle on combinations to make an assault to wrestle the title from the Frenchman’s grasp.
Latvala and Paddon show speed in Australia
Not satisfied to stay in the dust of Ogier, Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala claimed Rally Australia honours. It was the first win for the driver since February 2017, but better news for his team, as Toyota claimed a manufacturers title. It was their first title since 1999, and gives the Japanese brand a major coup; up against the powers of Europe.
— Toyota GAZOO Racing WRT (@TGR_WRC) November 18, 2018
In second place, New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon returned to a competitive rally finish. He claimed several stage wins, and benefitted from Tanak crashing out on the final day. The Kiwi enjoyed the familiar surface, with the gravel allowing Padden to show his pace – and hopefully, impress the Hyundai Motorsport team, in a bid to secure a drive in 2019.
His parttime contract only allowed for a small number of Rally starts, but Paddon ended the season in eighth place and – allowing for some better fortune – could have placed well in several Rally, until flat tyres or several crashes diminished his attempt to claim higher honours. But the Kiwi walked away from Coffs Harbour, with a wide smile after standing on the podium.
— 1 NEWS – Sport (@1NewsSportNZ) November 18, 2018
He is now in the second-tier of drivers, all fighting for limited opportunities. The catch22 situation being, that limited drives equal less opportunities, which mean fewer chances to accumulate points. Hayden Paddon will be looking at options outside of the Korean-manufacturer, if he is to fully realize his dream of driving in the WRC.
While others still dream, Sebastien Ogier must feel that he needs to pinch himself. Six WRC titles in succession is a dream that even he would have felt was impossible. And now, only three titles behind Sébastien Loeb, could he dream even further, of claiming more titles with Citroen in 2019.
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