PHOTO: Volkswagen’s Sebastien Ogier (right) and co-driver Julien Ingrassia celebrate their third straight World Rally Championships at Coates Hire Rally Australia (Jeremy Rogers pic)
FRENCH driver Sébastien Ogier won Coates Hire Rally Australia and his third straight FIA World Rally Championship on the New South Wales Coffs Coast today.
The Volkswagen star finished the 17 stages on the Coffs Coast 12.3 seconds ahead of his teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, with Citroën’s Kris Meeke a further 20.3 sec. behind in third place.
Ogier’s third victory Down Under also ensured world championship hat-tricks for co-driver Julien Ingrassia and manufacturer Volkswagen, the achievement coming in round 10 of the 13-event series.
His 31st career victory was another flawless performance for the driver who has dominated the championship since Volkswagen joined the WRC in 2013.
“So far it’s an amazing season. It’s the best I’ve ever done,” Ogier said after the end-of-rally Power Stage, which he also won, adding another three points to his tally.
“It was for sure the most difficult rally to open the roads, so it’s perfect to get this win for the third time. On paper this one was impossible to win – so is a very beautiful result.”
PHOTO: Sebastien Ogier thrills fans with a spectacular landing on the Wedding Bells stage of Coates Hire Rally Australia today (Jeremy Rogers pic)
Tired of playing bridesmaids to the unstoppable Ogier for most of the year, teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila were keen to add a third win to their 2015 tally, and honoured their promise to take the fight to the very end of the very last stage – but it wasn’t quite enough.
“It was a good feeling to finish this rally. Maybe I have missed out after the slow start on Friday and Saturday to fight for the victory. Miikka has been doing an amazing job and been doing better than me,” Latvala said.
The pressure was on Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle to get a solid result, after Citroën teammates Mads Østberg and Jonas Andersson were forced to withdraw from the event in the wake of a crash during route reconnaissance.
Their #4 Citroën DS3 was handed to Junior World Rally Champion Stéphane Lefebvre, who had come to Australia simply for a practice run over the stages.
Suddenly he found himself piloting a WRC car for the first time on gravel and proved himself to be a star of the future by finishing 13th outright and 10th in WRC with the assistance of experienced co-driver Stéphane Prevot.
Meeke was leading the event coming into the final stage on Saturday night, but Ogier grabbed a mere 0.3 sec lead and then added steadily to it today.
The Ulsterman was frustrated he had not been able to grab his second win for the year, but happy to have fulfilled team wishes after several mishaps on recent rounds.
“I’ve enjoyed my weekend, and being able to find a great rhythm. It was nice to have the little errors of the last couple of rallies now behind us. We did have road position advantage so it would have been nice to sneak in a win,” he said.
Andreas Mikkelsen, Volkswagen’s third driver, finished the event in fourth place, 5.9 seconds behind Meeke and 38.5 seconds behind Ogier, while Hyundai’s Kiwi driver, Hayden Paddon, rounded out the top five, 16.6 seconds shy of Mikkelsen.
Multiple champion and current standings leader Nasser Al-Attiyah won the second-tier WRC2 category, with Yurii Protasov in second and Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari third.
The best placed Australian in the WRC2 category was Coffs Coast local Nathan Quinn, who finished fourth in class and 14th outright.
Organisers considered the rally the most successful since it moved to the Coffs Coast in 2011. Crowds packed every venue from the Thursday evening start in central Coffs Harbour, to the Pub With No Beer stage hub on Friday, the innovative Valla nighttime stage last night and the podium presentation back in Coffs this afternoon.
Rally Australia is already contracted for 2016 and 2017. A date for the 2016 event is expected to be announced at the end of this month, with organisers hoping the world motor sport authority will confer the season’s closing round
Overall Final Classification (Provisional):
- S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 2:59:164
- J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +12.3
- K Meeke/P Nagle (Citroën DS3 WRC) +32.6
- A Mikkelsen/O Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +38.5
- H Paddon/J Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +55.o
- O Tanak/R Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +1:38..0
- T Neuville/N Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:08.3
- D Sordo/M Martí (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:15.2
- E Evans/D Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:33.7
- N Al-Attiyah/M Baumel (Ford Fiesta RRC) +11:46.5
2015 FIA World Rally Championship-Drivers
- S Ogier 235 points
- J-M Latvala 134
- A Mikkelsen 111
- M Østberg 90
- T Neuville 86
- K Meeke 71
- E Evans 63
- O Tanak 62
- H Paddon 56
- D Sordo 56
2015 FIA World Rally Championship-Manufacturers
- Volkswagen Motorsport 343 points
- Hyundai Motorsport 177
- Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 164
- M-Sport World Rally Team 148
- Volkswagen Motorsport II 76