PHOTO: Jari-Matti Latvala will challenge teammate Sebastien Ogier in Australia (Volkswagen pic).
WORLD title rivals Sebastien Ogier and Jari-Matti Latvala are free to fight each other for victory after their Volkswagen team confirmed there will be no team orders at Coates Hire Rally Australia next week.
Between them, defending champion Ogier of France and Finland’s Latvala need just five points in Australia to secure the 2014 FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title early for Volkswagen, but the German squad’s motorsport director Jost Capito said that wouldn’t affect the decision to let the best man win.
Based at Coffs Harbour, 530 kms north of Sydney, Coates Hire Rally Australia on 11-14 September will be Round 10 of the WRC.
“The Rally Australia is one of the highlights of the year,” Capito told WRC.com.
“With the current situation in the world championship it has the potential to be particularly exciting in 2014.
“In the Ogier versus Latvala duel both drivers have been given the go-ahead to fight for victory. We also have a good chance of being able to celebrate winning the manufacturers’ title early.
“Last year we won 21 of 22 special stages and started the longest winning streak in the history of the WRC. We’re proud of this. However, it won’t be easy to be successful once again.”
If Volkswagen successfully defends the title in Australia it would be the earliest in a season that a WRC title has been decided in 25 years.
The team is already assured of the drivers’ crown because only Latvala and third driver Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway can collect enough points over the remaining four rounds to catch Ogier.
Heading to Australia, Ogier has a 44-point advantage over Latvala. It is the same gap that separated the rivals before Rallye Deutschland last month, when both crashed and failed to finish.
Up to that point the two drivers had won every round of the season, with Ogier claiming five victories and Latvala three.