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