SÉBASTIEN Ogier has reignited his hopes of a seventh-straight FIA World Rally Championship after heading a Citroën Racing 1-2 finish at Rally Turkey on Sunday – and expectation is building that the title could decided in Australia in November.
PHOTO: Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
Watch TV highlights of Rally Turkey free on 10 BOLD and tendaily.com.au on Saturday 21 September at 3pm AEST (check guides for local times)
After three gruelling days of intense heat and rock-strewn tracks near the Mediterranean resort town of Marmaris, the Frenchman finished 34.7sec ahead of longtime leader Esapekka Lappi to claim his first victory since March and climb to second in the drivers’ standings.
He closed the gap on series leader Ott Tänak to 17 points with a maximum 90 available from the remainder of the season, which wraps up at Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 14-17 November.
With three rounds to run, the title contest between Ogier, Toyota’s Tänak and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville is now wide open and the trio again could battle down to the final stages in the Coffs sub-tropical forests, as they did in 2018.
Tickets for Kennards Hire Rally Australia, priced from $29 to $119, are available now from Ticketek.com. Event highlights will include two nights of the harbourside Destination New South Wales Super Special Stage and a free concert by legendary rock band Dragon exclusively for 4-day ticket-holders.
Ogier, a renowned tough and wily fighter when the chips are down, was 23 points in arrears and third in the standings after Turkey 2018 but won the title on the last stage of the last day of the season in Australia.
Should Ogier repeat in Australia this year, he would equal the FIA World Championship tally of Formula 1’s most successful driver, Michael Schumacher.
Before the start in Turkey last Thursday night, he made it clear nothing less than a win would keep his 2019 title hopes alive. While Tänak and Neuville fell by the wayside in brutal conditions, Ogier and Citroën were masterful.
Lappi took the lead on the third of the 17 stages on Friday morning and remained on top as his teammate climbed to second. Ogier moved to the front late on Saturday when Lappi stalled his Citroën C3’s engine in a hairpin and eased through Sunday’s finale for his third victory of the year.
“This win was really needed and our only chance to get back in the championship fight,” said Ogier.
“We knew anything could happen because it’s a super-rough rally but the bad luck we had on the previous round in Germany was behind us.”
Tänak retired his Toyota Yaris on Saturday with an electrical problem, but returned on Sunday to claim maximum bonus points with an all-or-nothing winning drive through the final Wolf Power Stage and 16thoverall. Neuville languished in eighth overall after an accident on Saturday.
Lappi survived a half-spin and a puncture in the final two stages to take a contented second after a torrid season. The Finn finished 29.8sec ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen, who delivered vital points to extend Hyundai Motorsport’s lead in the all-important manufacturers’ championship to 19 points.
Teemu Suninen was unable to fight Mikkelsen for the final podium place on Sunday, but fourth in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta was a strong result for the Finn after a lacklustre display on the previous dirt-road round in his home country.
Dani Sordo was fifth in another Hyundai i20, ahead of early leader Jari-Matti Latvala, who lost time with a puncture in his Toyota.
The championship continues at Wales Rally GB, based in Llandudno, on 3-6 October. RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España follows on 25-27 October, before the series heads to Australia for the grand finale.
RESULTS, Rally Turkey (WRC round 11 of 14):
1 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Citroën C3 WRC) 3h50m12.1s
2 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Citroën C3 WRC) +34.7s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger-Amland (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m04.5s
4 Teemu Suninen/Jarmo Lehtinen (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1m35.1s
5 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m25.9s
6 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m59.1s
7 Kris Meeke/Seb Marshall (Toyota Yaris WRC) +3m53.3s
8 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +5m34.8s
9 Pontus Tidemand/Ola Fløene (Ford Fiesta WRC) +7m22.9s
10 Gus Greensmith/Elliott Edmondson (Ford Fiesta R5 MkII) +15m18.7s
WRC Drivers’ Standings (after round 11):
1 O. Tanak 210
2 S. Ogier 193
3 T. Neuville 180
4 A. Mikkelsen 94
5 K. Meeke 86
6 J.M Latvala 84
7 T. Suninen 83
8 E. Lappi 80
9 E. Evans 78
10 D. Sordo 72
WRC Manufacturers’ Standings (after round 11):
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 314
2 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 295
3 Citroën Total World Rally Team259
4 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 184