Ten long months have elapsed since newly crowned five time world champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia started afresh with M-Sport, making their debut in Monte Carlo. The Frenchmen did something no-one before him could – win the World Drivers’ Championship for the Cumbrian team.
This is how they pulled it off, in pictures.
An ice-cool Ogier won on his M-Sport debut, albeit inheriting the victory after Thierry Neuville crashed out of a comfortable lead.
A first sign of weakness showed in a scruffy Sweden performance, though once again he came to benefit from an unforced Neuville error. Jari-Matti Latvala’s win on snow meant an unexpected fourth contender for the title.
Ogier very nearly inherited a second win in three rounds, though Kris Meeke’s unscheduled trip through a car park on the final stage didn’t lose him quite enough time to promote the Frenchman from second to first.
His home event was dominated not by a French driver, but by a French team. Citroën were streaking away at the front with Kris Meeke until an engine failure gave Ogier a window. Neuville capitalised instead to secure a long overdue first win of the season.
Argentina was an extremely rare occasion in which he was outpaced by both his team-mates, though Elfyn Evans’ DMACK tyres certainly helped in that respect. Unfortunately for Ogier, the Welshman could not fend off title rival Neuville for victory, missing out by a mere 0.7 seconds.
A happy hunting ground brought his title charge back on track, having seen Neuville score two wins in a row. It was win number two of the season for Ogier, but career win number five in Portugal.
Italy was the first sign of Ogier’s title tilt starting to falter. Sweeping the dusty Sardinian roads, he picked up a puncture on Saturday to compound his misery. He came home fifth, his lowest finish of the year, while team-mate and title rival Ott Tänak scored his maiden WRC victory.
A win in Poland for Thierry Neuville left Ogier feeling rather unamused. The championship fight was closer than ever, and was lucky to still hold a narrow advantaged after two punctures and a spin for the incumbent champion.
The worst moment in an otherwise bright campaign was a brutal crash into the trees in Finland. Ogier’s pride was hurt, but co-driver Julien Ingrassia was physically hurt. They would not return under Rally2, allowing Ingrassia to recuperate in peace.
Ogier took things steady in Germany, aiming to get crucial points back on the board after a somewhat lean period since Portugal. He was aided by a shock retirement for Neuville, though team-mate Tänak closed in with his second victory.
Struggling with road sweeping on the opening gravel stages of Spain, Ogier once again played the long game and aimed for a podium finish. When Neuville broke a wheel on a corner cut (again) and retired on the final day – his second no score in a row – the door was left open to secure title number five next time out in Wales.
In the thick of a five-way battle for the podium places, Ogier persevered. Even a puncture and failing brakes on Saturday night could not stop him. Tänak graciously scarified his own rally on the final stage to ensure Ogier scored the required points to wrap up the title.
It had rained the day before, but on Sunday, the sun shone on Ogier and Ingrassia.