Sixth in a Row

Sébastien Ogier of M-Sport Ford claimed his sixth WRC ti­tle in style at the Aus­tralian round

Car India - - SPORT - Re­port: Ravi Chand­nani Pho­tog­ra­phy: Lulop.com

The last round of WRC saw some re­ally nail-bit­ing ac­tion with ever-ris­ing ex­cite­ment from day one. As the rally kicked off on Fri­day, there was a strong sense that Toy­ota Ga­zoo Rac­ing driv­ers would be the dom­i­nat­ing force down un­der. On day one, the trio of Es­apekka Lappi, Ott Tä­nak, and Jari-Matti Lat­vala did ex­actly that by en­gag­ing in a three-way fight at the front. An­dreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville of Hyundai, too, were in­volved in this fight, with Mads Øst­berg also in the fray. Cham­pi­onship leader Sébastien Ogier, how­ever, was run­ning out of the top five.

As the day came t o an end, the r esults were quite sur­pris­ing: Øst­berg had taken a solid 6.8-se­cond lead over Craig Breen of Citroën. Lat­vala ended day one in third with Hay­den Pad­don of Hyundai in fourth, and Ott Tä­nak in fifth. Ogier was still not among the top five.

Day two was ac­tion-packed with Øst­berg main­tain­ing his lead for the first two stages, only to be over­taken by Lat­vala on SS11. By now, Ogier had moved to sixth and his arch-ri­val, Thierry Neuville, was now pushed to 10th, which meant that if he con­tin­ued at this pace and Neuville re­mained be­hind him, Ogier would take the cham­pi­onship. And that is ex­actly what hap­pened. Ogier de­fended P6 and Neuville was only able to move to P8 by the end of Satur­day. At the front, Tä­nak had taken the lead, fol­lowed by his team­mate, Lat­vala, in se­cond and Hay­den Pad­don in third.

On the fi­nal Sun­day of the 2018 sea­son, Lat­vala snatched the lead from Tä­nak and started run­ning away with it in the morn­ing. Mean­while, at the back, Neuville was try­ing hard to chase down Ogier to fight for the cham­pi­onship. As luck would have it, the Bel­gian driver ran into trou­ble two stages be­fore the fin­ish-line as he pushed too hard and ended up go­ing off, which ended all chances of a ti­tle fight. With Neuville out of the run­ning, Ogier had a free run to the fin­ish-line. He ended the last rally of 2018 in fifth place, which was enough to earn him the WRC ti­tle for the sixth time. As for the vic­tory in Aus­tralia, Lat­vala had a blis­ter­ing run on the last day as he took the lead early on Sun­day and main­tained it right till the che­quered flag. It was Lat­vala’s first-ever vic­tory in al­most two years. In se­cond place was Hay­den Pad­don of Hyundai, with the fi­nal podium spot go­ing to Mads Øst­berg of Citroën.

There was good news for In­dian rally fans as well be­cause Gaurav Gill of Team MRF Tyres also par­tic­i­pated in rally Aus­tralia and was able to fin­ish 15th. We wish Gaurav and Team MRF Tyres the best for the 2019 sea­son.

( TopLeft) Lat­vala ended the sea­son on a high note by emerg­ing vic­to­ri­ous in Aus­tralia

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