Jari-Matti Latvala secured his first win for nearly two years as he secured victory at the 2018 Kennards Hire Rally Australia with a strong drive though the three days where he was never lower than third place.
A steady drive from Sébastien Ogier guided him to his sixth FIA World Rally Championship title while title rivals Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak both crashed while pushing hard to deny the Frenchman of another title.
While Ogier only finished in fifth place, his calm drive proved faultless through the muddy stages as the heavy rain transformed the dusty roads in to a mess; while Ogier pushed on, both Neuville and Tänak had brushes with the scenery in the morning.
Neuville was forced to retire three stages from the end of the rally after ripping a rear wheel from his Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC after hitting a bank. On the next stage it was Tänak who hit problems as his Toyota Yaris ground to a halt with no drive.
“It’s been an incredible season, so close. Not so long ago we were thinking it was going to be tough to grab this title but we never gave up.” said Ogier.
“We gave everything, with a fantastic team behind us who kept fighting and in the end we grabbed it in the last rally. It’s so emotional.”
Latvala inherited the lead of the rally when Tänak hit issues after a trip in to the trees, as a result of the win it extends his record of winning a round of the WRC every year since 2008.
The win also helped to secure the manufacturers’ title for Toyota Gazoo Racing, making it the first title for the Japanese marque since 1999 after a 17-year absence in WRC.
“It has been too long, almost two very long years. I was losing hope that I would win a rally but these tricky conditions went my way,” said Latvala, who finished 32.5 seconds ahead of Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon.
The New Zealander claimed his best finish of the season with a calm drive as others struggled with the changing conditions.
Mads Østberg rounded out the season finishing third, despite a scare when he hit a tree, knocking the right rear door off of the car. Esapekka Lappi, Ogier and Elfyn Evans rounded out the top six.
In WRC2 Alberto Heller secured an easy victory as he finished 27 minutes ahead of second placed Ginaluca Linari.