Sebastien Ogier led team-mates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen to Volkswagen’s first World Rally championship podium sweep to clinch the manufacturers’ title at Rally Australia.
Ogier and Latvala were locked in a close duel throughout the rally. Initially the VW pair were fighting with Mikkelsen, Kris Meeke and Mikko Hirvonen for the lead but they were able to leave them behind on Saturday.
Latvala briefly held the lead on Saturday, but fell behind after choosing to fit soft tyres in anticipation of a wet stage. Unfortunately for Latvala the stage was dry and sunny and Ogier, who mixed hard and soft tyres for the loop, reclaimed the lead.
Latvala pushed all the way to the finish to try and catch his team-mate but it wasn’t to be as he finished just 6.8 seconds behind.
After a tough outing in Germany Ogier was extremely happy to take a hard-fought victory in Australia: “That was a really good one. Jari-Matti was in a strong rhythm and I needed to keep the pace high. I did what I had to do. I’m really proud of this win, especially after some difficult weeks.”
Mikkelsen was able to make it a perfect rally for VW as he eased to third place after Meeke, who led early on, was hit with a corner-cutting penalty on Saturday.
This dropped Meeke a minute down the order, but he was able to fight his way back up into fourth place ahead of the M-Sport of Hirvonen.
Hayden Paddon led the charge for Rallye Deutschland winners Hyundai finishing in sixth place. Team-mate Thierry Neuville, also fresh off his first WRC win, could only manage to finish seventh after he suffered an impact on stage five.
Elfyn Evans and Robert Kubica finished way off the pace in eighth and ninth. Kubica had an off on Saturday when he was distracted by the new automated yellow flag warning system.
Chris Atkinson rounded out the top 10 in the Hyundai finishing more than nine minutes off the lead. Whilst the Citroen of Mads Ostberg limped home in 13th after he suffered broken suspension on the penultimate stage.
POS DRIVER TEAM/CAR TIME/GAP
1 Sebastien Ogier VW 2h53m18.0s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala VW 6.8s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen VW 1m18.0s
4 Kris Meeke Citroen 1m44.0s
5 Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport 1m53.6s
6 Hayden Paddon Hyundai 2m56.2s
7 Thierry Neuville Hyundai 4m28.2s
8 Elfyn Evans M-Sport 5m10.0s
9 Robert Kubica RK M-Sport 6m39.8s
10 Chris Atkinson Hyundai 9m29.4s