WRC: Ogier secures championship hattrick in Australia

Sebastien Ogier 2015 Rally Australia.jpg

Volkswagen Motorsport driver Sebastien Ogier, and his co-driver Julien Ingrassia, have clinched their third consecutive World Rally Championship title after a commanding victory in the 24th Rally Australia, the thirty-first WRC rally victory for Ogier.

Ogier took the lead of the rally on the final special stage of day two after a slow start on day one, and won eight of the last ten stages - including every stage on the third and final day, power stage included - to take a victory that puts the Frenchman into more exclusive company among the champions of rallying.

Ogier's third title makes him just the fourth driver to win three or more World Rally Driver's Championships - joining his countryman, the great Sebastien Loeb, and Finnish legends Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Makinen. His thirty-first rally win puts him in sole possession of second on the all-time WRC wins list, now one ahead of two-time champion Marcos Gronholm, but still an astonishing forty-seven wins behind Loeb's stratospheric record of 78.

Twenty-four of his victories have come in the last three seasons, all with Volkswagen Motorsport, whose sensational Polo R WRC has now won thirty-one rallies from thirty-six entries since its debut in 2013.

Completing the podium in Australia were Jari-Matti Latvala, winner in Portugal and in the famous 1000 Lakes Rally Finland, but now unable to finish higher than second in the championship for the second straight season. Citroen driver Kris Meeke finished third, taking his first podium finish since his popular and historic victory in Argentina - when he became the first British rally winner since his late mentor and friend Colin McRae.

The third Volkswagen of Andreas Mikkelsen finished fourth, ahead of Hyundai's Hayden Paddon - the New Zealander driving in what was his de facto home rally - who continues to impress in his largest WRC campaign of his young career, once again out-performing lead driver Thierry Neuville (finished 7th) and veteran teammate Dani Sordo (8th). Ott Tanak was the best of the M-Sport Ford drivers, the Estonian finishing sixth, three places up on teammate Elfyn Evans, while Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the top ten and claimed the WRC-2 class victory in his privateer Ford Fiesta.

With Mads Ostberg forced to withdraw from the rally due to injuries sustained in a shocking recce accident the day before the rally, Citroen young driver Sylvain Lefebvre was given his second opportunity in a top-class Citroen DS3 for the factory team (following his points-scoring debut in Rallye Deutschland). Lefebvre fell out of the points before the end of day one and could only finish thirteenth, but the 23-year-old made yet another very strong impression on the Citroen team for his efforts and will be a hot property in the last few rounds, and certainly in the years ahead.

Three rallies remain in the 2015 WRC campaign, the next of which will be the return of the historic Tour de Corse to the calendar, then the Rally Catalunya, before the season ends at the famous Wales Rally GB. And if recent form is any indication, the still-reigning champion will not be content to coast through the final rallies - Ogier won the two remaining rallies after clinching his first title, and the Rally GB after clinching his second a year ago.

Image Credit: © Red Bull Media House
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