Ogier wins Rally Australia over teammate Latvala
COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — World champion Sebastien Ogier of France won Rally Australia on Sunday by 6.8 seconds over teammate Jari-Matti Latvala of Finland, continuing their season-long duel atop the World Rally Championship standings and clinching the manufacturers’ championship for Volkswagen with three of 13 series races remaining.
Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia won 11 of the 20 stages over three days in Australia. After more than 313 kilometers (193 miles) of competition, Ogier finished the closing Wedding Bells II Power Stage with Latvala hot on his tracks, the Finnish driver having picked up more than three seconds with two stage wins on Sunday afternoon.
“I tried to push a bit, but I didn’t take any risks,” said Latvala. “We just needed to focus on our own driving.”
Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway, lead driver of the second Volkswagen team, finished third, 1 minute, 18 seconds behind Ogier. Citroen driver Kris Meeke of Northern Ireland was fourth, 1:44 behind Ogier.
“It was amazing to head the one-two-three for the team,” Ogier said. “We are here first for Volkswagen, and I am so happy for the team. It is a great step toward my championship as well.”
Ogier came into Rally Australia with a leading 187 points over Latvala’s 143 for the driver’s championship. Mikkelsen was in third with 110 points.
Meeke recovered from a one-minute penalty overnight.
“This is my strongest performance to date. I’m enjoying my time here, and I’ll keep working at catching the guys in front,” said Meeke.
The rally had its final six stages Sunday, although only three courses were used, once each in the morning and once in the early afternoon. The Shipmans course, first of the day, was the longest at 30.20 kilometers (18.6 miles)
After the morning session, Ogier lost a little bit of the 11.8-second lead he held over Latvala overnight, dropping to just 8.7 seconds. Mikkelsen was in third but had dropped to 48.2 seconds behind Ogier, nearly doubling his deficit from overnight.
The Australian race, the 10th of the World Rally Championship, was held on mostly gravel roads in northern New South Wales state about 525 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.
Ogier and Latvala needed only five points for Volkswagen to clinch the manufacturers’ championship, and did that with ease.
The drivers’ title is still up for grabs, beginning with the next race, the Rally de France-Alsace beginning Oct. 3 in Strasbourg. That will be followed by rallies in Spain in late October and in Wales in mid-November to complete the season.