SÉBASTIEN Ogier’s second place at Neste Oil Rally Finland has moved him within striking distance of a third straight FIA World Rally Championship – with a win possible on the next round in Germany and theoretically even more likely at Coates Hire Rally Australia next month.
The Frenchman leads the drivers’ standings with 182 points, 89 clear of his closest challenger, Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala.
The next round at the manufacturer’s home event, ADAC Rallye Deutschland on 20-23 August, presents Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia with their first opportunity to wrap up this year’s title.
Including Germany, there are five more WRC rounds to go in 2015 and only four drivers can mathematically prevent Ogier from taking the title. Latvala is best placed, followed by Mads Østberg (98 points back), Andreas Mikkelsen (99 points back) and Thierry Neuville (112 points back).
For Ogier to seal the deal in Germany, he’ll need to win the rally, take a maximum score on the Power Stage and hope that Latvala finishes no higher than eighth and that Østberg and Mikkelsen do no better than fourth.
But that’s a tall order and the odds will be better at Coates Hire Rally Australia on 10-13 September.
Victory in Germany is no foregone conclusion for Ogier, who has crashed there three times in the last two years. In 2013 he broke his suspension and finished 17th, while last year he crashed out of the lead on Friday and then retired altogether after a huge crash on Saturday.
“The two last years were a disaster for me in Germany,” Ogier acknowledged.
“For two and a half years we make a good performance, but not in Germany – I can say in Germany we have been really bad. I hope we can change that.”
While Germany has been Ogier’s downfall, he has great form in Australia with two straight wins for Volkswagen.
In 2013, he nevertheless missed by just one point wrapping up the title at Rally Australia and had to wait until the next round in France.
Last year after the Germany disaster he had little chance to clinch the title in Australia and did not do so, despite Volkswagen Motorsport wrapping up the Manufacturers Championship there. His second crown followed at Rally Spain.
Australian fans will be on the edge of their seats as another gripping WRC season progresses toward a gripping conclusion.