14 September 2013
Rally Australia: Ogier closes on win and title
Sebastien Ogier ends Saturday's stages with a 45.9 second lead over Mikko Hirvonen; Thierry Neuville lies third ahead of Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Mads Ostberg.
Volkswagen's Sebastien Ogier looks poised to win Rally Australia and clinch the 2013 WRC drivers' title after annihilating the opposition on Saturday.
Ogier concluded the first full-day of competition on Friday with a 20-second cushion, having won seven of the day's eight tests, and he did even better during the second leg, winning every single test to increase his lead to 45.9 seconds. It was an utterly dominant display and puts him on course to be crowned champion on Sunday.
“We are very happy,” said the Frenchman. “Up to now the rally has been perfect for us. Now we just need to keep this place.”
Hirvonen meanwhile looks set to have to settle for the runners-up spot, barring misfortune or a mistake from Ogier: “It's been alright but one more day to go. There is a bit of a gap now to Ogier and I will try to keep up with him,” said the Finn after SS16.
Thierry Neuville completes the provisional podium in his Qatar World Rally Team Fiesta RS WRC, 25.5 seconds off P2 and 36.2 seconds up on the Volkswagen of Jari-Matti Latvala in fourth.
“We are quite happy – and can be pleased with my day and are looking forward to tomorrow,” said Neuville. “It [the Coffs SSS] was a good stage for us although it was quite slippery. No dust so it was better than yesterday.”
“I started slow today,” Latvala added, “and without the spin [and puncture in SS12] that cost me a lot of time it would have been okay. It's a bit tough to get that back now.”
Behind, VW 'third' driver Andreas Mikkelsen lies fifth, with Qatar M-Sport pilot Mads Ostberg one spot back and only 2.5 seconds adrift in P6.
“It's been quite okay to be honest. The morning stages were very good from a driver point of view. The last [forest] stage [SS14] we had a big spin and lost a lot of time unfortunately. We are still here though, and ready for tomorrow,” Ostberg remarked.
Evgeny Novikov and local man Nathan Quinn are next up in seventh and eighth, while Khalid Al-Qassimi and WRC2 leader Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari round out the top ten, the latter leading the support category by over a minute.
In terms of retirements, Citroen guest driver Kris Meeke was the big scalp on Saturday, rolling his DS3 WRC car in SS13. Meeke had been running fourth overall. His exit will do little to help his chances of securing a drive in 2014 nor will it help Citroen much in the scrap with VW in the Manufacturers' Championship.
Rally Australia now concludes on Sunday, with two loops of three stages on the bill, totalling around 125 competitive kilometres.
Rally Australia: Overall standings after Stage 16 (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC 2h 14m 53.9s M
2. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC +45.9s M
3. Thierry Neuville Qatar WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +1m 11.4s M
4. Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC +1m 47.6s M
5. Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Polo R WRC +2m 10.8s M
6. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +2m 13.3s M
7. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC +6m 36.6s M
8. Nathan Quinn MINI John Cooper Works WRC +9m 10.8s
9. Khalid Al-Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +10m 23.0s M
10. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC +12m 00.1s WRC2
11. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +13m 13.9s WRC2
12. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +19m 58.7s WRC2
WRC2 standings after Stage 16 (Top 3):
1. Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari Ford Fiesta RRC 2hr 26m 54.0s WRC2
2. Yuriy Protasov Ford Fiesta R5 +1m 13.8s WRC2
3. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC +7m 58.6s WRC2
SS8. Yazeed Al-Rajhi Ford Fiesta RRC Hit a bank WRC2*
SS14. Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC Rolled M
*denotes able to re-start under Rally 2
all times unofficial
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