2016 FIA World Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier heads into the final leg of the Kennards Hire Rally Australia just two seconds behind leader Andreas Mikkelsen. The Frenchman has overcome his difficult road position to close the gap to the leader by 13.4 seconds over the day’s seven stages. Ogier’s plight has been aided by Mikkelsen hitting trouble in the afternoon loop.
The day started well for Kiwi driver and rising star Hayden Paddon. The Hyundai Motorsport driver won the opening stage to leap into second place in the i20 WRC. The New Zealander held his position until the service stop holding second by just three seconds over Sebastien Ogier and trailing Mikkelsen by just 13.6 seconds.
Ogier began his comeback in the afternoon taking second off Paddon but drama was to follow on SS16 for rally leader Mikkelsen. The Norwegian clipped something in the stage which dislodged his clutch pedal from its normal position and forced it into the path of his brake pedal. The end result was that when he braked he also depressed the clutch which caused him to lose time.
After stopping on road section to make repairs the VW driver took third on SS17 an down the final test of the day to finish the leg with a two second lead. The result sets up a thrilling fight for the final day of the season between the VW drivers with Hayden Paddon keeping the honest in third just 12 seconds behind. “Tomorrow we will not hold back,” says a determined Hayden. “Maybe a bit of that final stage Argentina magic is what is needed!”
Thierry Neuville is in fourth 21.8 seconds behind with the third Hyundai of Dani Sordo almost a minute off the lead in fifth. The M-Sport drivers of Mads Ostberg and Eric Camilli follow closely in sixth and seventh with Ott Tanak nearly five minutes off the lead in eighth. Esapekka Lappi is set to take the WRC2 crown in his Skoda Fabia R5. The Finn leads the class by just under four minutes.
The 2016 WRC season is set to conclude tomorrow with five stages.