Despite fierce competition during the entire season, Sebastien Ogier has managed to clinch his sixth consecutive FIA WRC title.
The battle for the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship went right down to the wire in the final round in Australia as three drivers faced the ultimate title shootout. After some terrific driving in the previous two rounds, team M-Sport Ford’s Sebastien Ogier had been able to erase his 23-point deficit to lead long-time leader Thierry Neuville, of team Hyundai, by three points. Ott Tänak of Toyota Gazoo Racing was twenty-three points off the lead.
The Coffs Harbour-based rally saw the competitors cover a total stage distance of 318.64km before the finish. The proceedings began in favour of Sebastien Ogier, as heavy rain transformed the gravel forest roads into a muddy mess. This was an advantage for him as Neuville and Tanäk would’ve been much faster on a dry stage. While Ogier had a faultless run, Neuville and Tanäk both escaped brushes with the scenery during the morning’s opening three speed runs.
As the rally progressed, things only became worse for both Neuville and Tanäk. Three stages prior to the finish, Neuville swiped a bank and ripped the rear wheel off his Hyundai i20. One stage ahead, Ott Tanäk suffered a broken gearbox and his Toyota Yaris came to a halt with no drive. Tanäk’s exit allowed team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to take the lead, whereas team Hyundai was now being led by Hayden Paddon.
Avoiding Sunday’s carnage, Jari-Matti Latvala won the rally for Toyota Gazoo Racing in his Yaris with a lead of 32.5 seconds, and his win also secured the manufacturers’ title for Toyota. This was Toyota’s first WRC win after 1999 and Latvala’s first victory since February 2017. Hayden Paddon also survived the carnage, clinching second-place in his i20, with first-leg leader Mads Østberg filling the podium in his Citroën C3.
However, the spotlight fell on Ogier and Ingrassia, as the duo drove through the final Power Stage with the knowledge that their fifth-place finish was more than enough to secure the championship title. The fact that this was Ogier’s final appearance in M-Sport Ford’s Fiesta before switching to Citroën in 2019 made the victory all the more special for both Ogier and team M-Sport Ford.