Three Rally Australia wins on the trot for Ogier
FRENCHMAN Sebastien Ogier has won the Coates Hire Rally Australia - his third straight FIA World Rally Championship in Coffs Harbour.
Ogier's third victory down under also ensured world championship hat-tricks for co-driver Julien Ingrassia and manufacturer Volkswagen.
His 31st career victory was another flawless performance for the driver who has dominated since Volkswagen joined the WRC in 2013.
"So far it's an amazing season. It's the best I've ever done," he said after the end-of-rally Power Stage, which he also won.
"It was for sure the most difficult rally to open the roads, so it's perfect to get this win for the third time."
1. Sebastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
2. Jari-Matti Latvala (Volkswagen Polo R) +12.3 sec
3. Kris Meeke (Citroen DS3) +32.6
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (Volkswagen Polo R) +38.5
5. Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20) +55.1
6. Ott Tanak (Ford Fiesta RS) +1:38.0
7. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai i20) +2:08.3
8. Dani Sordo (Hyundai i20) +2:15.2
9. Elfyn Evans (Ford Fiesta RS) +4:33.7
10. Nasser al-Attiyah (Ford Fiesta RRC) +11:46.5
Driver standings after Rd 10
1. Sebastien Ogier 235
2. Jari-Matti Latvala 134
3. Andeas Mikkelsen 111
4. Mads Ostberg 90
5. Thierry Neuville 86
2PM: VOLKSWAGEN star Sébastien Ogier is on track for victory and a third FIA World Rally Championship title as Coates Hire Rally Australia draws to a close.
The Frenchman is set to join an exclusive club of drivers with three or more titles.
Only Sébastien Loeb (nine), Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen (four each) have taken the crown more often.
Co-driver Julien Ingrassia is also set for a third title.
"It has been a perfect morning," said a very relaxed Ogier, at the end of the 6.40km Settles Road test.
"I'm very pleased with my run this morning.
"This stage was really fast so no room for mistakes.
"It was a clean run for me."
Ogier now holds a 7.3 second advantage over his Finnish team-mate, Jari-Matti Latvala.
The pair has been tussling for fastest times over this morning's three stages, running in the forests behind Moonee Beach north of Coffs Harbour,
Latvala is tired of playing bridesmaid and is keen to log his third win for the year and close the points gap to his rival, currently 207 to 114.
He's vowed to fight to the very end of the final stage.
"I try to think all the time where I can get more time.," Latvala said.
"Probably I need to get the car to turn in a better, as I have an understeer problem.
"That would be one solution.
" It is not over."
Citroën's Kris Meeke remains in third position, 12.3 seconds shy of Latvala, and 4.2 seconds ahead of the third Volkswagen of Andreas Mikkelsen.
In the second tier WRC2 category, Nasser Al-Attiyah continues to lead, 16.9 seconds ahead of Yuriy Protasov, with Yazeed Al-Kuwari in third place, a further 1m:45.3s back.
The best-placed Australian in the category is Coffs Coast local Nathan Quinn in a one-off drive.
He's currently fourth in class and 14th outright.
Scott Pedder, the 2014 Australian Rally Champion, has contested several events in WRC2 this year but has struggled with a variety of issues on home turf this weekend.
Today he has turbo problems.
The rally closes with a ceremonial podium finish in the centre of Coffs Harbour at 3pm today, after three full days and 311km of competition.
Volkswagen looks set to wrap up a triple hat trick of driver, co-driver and manufacturer titles, three events before the season ends.
12:30PM: SEBASTIEN Ogier has one hand on the Coates Hire Rally trophy and only misadventure can foil his bid for the World championship.
At the end of the Bucca stage on Sunday morning, the Frenchman shot away to an extraordinary 11.2 seconds lead after starting the final day a mere 0.3 seconds ahead of Kris Meeke.
Volkswagen team mate Jari-Matti Latvala has now leapfrogged Meeke and the German carmaker seem also set to claim the team victory.
Coffs Coast driver Nathan Quinn is in 14th position overall and is leading Australian.
1 - 1 Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport 2:54:05.2
2 - 2 Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport 2:54:16.4 (+11.2)
3 - 3 Meeke Citroën Total Abu Dhabi 2:54:34.1 (+28.9)
4 - 9 Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport 2:54:41.8 (+36.6)
5 - 8 Paddon Hyundai Motorsport 2:54:58.2 (+53.0)
6 - 6 Tanak M-Sport World Rally Team 2:55:35.8 (+1:30.6)
7 - 7 Neuville Hyundai Motorsport 2:56:09.6 (+2:04.4)
8 - 20 Sordo Hyundai Motorsport 2:56:14.0 (+2:08.8)
9 - 5 Evans M-Sport World Rally Team 2:58:32.2 (+4:27.0)
10 - 39 Al-Attiyah Nasser Al-Attiyah 3:05:31.2 (+11:26.0)
10AM: FRENCHMAN Sebastien Ogier has taken a lead of just 0.3 seconds and a near-certain shot at a third FIA World Rally Championship into a thrilling finale to Coates Hire Rally Australia.
After a titanic day-long battle, Ogier hit the front on the last and most difficult test of Saturday, the 7.94 kilometre Valla II stage run in darkness and heavy dust to the south of the Coffs Harbour event base.
The Volkswagen pilot snatched the lead from Citroën driver Kris Meeke at the final moment with Jari-Matti Latvala a further 2.3 seconds behind in another Volkswagen Polo R WRC.
Victory today will secure a third consecutive world titles for Ogier, co-driver Julien Ingrassia and the Volkswagen Motorsport team.
Meeke snatched the lead from Latvala in the marathon 50.80km Nambucca test at the start of the day.
Ogier, who had the worst conditions of the top drivers on the slippery gravel roads, was fourth after that stage.
But when the two morning stages were repeated on cleaner and faster roads, the Frenchman won both and overturned a 2.4 seconds deficit in the final test.
"I'm really happy of course - I did not expect to be in the lead tonight," Ogier said.
"Now I'm looking forward to the fight resuming.
"There is a very small gap to Kris and even Jari-Matti, so everything is still open."
Meeke gambled on soft-compound tyres for Citroën's DS 3 in the opening Nambucca stage.
Although his pace was sufficient to demote Latvala from the lead, he was disappointed to not have taken more time from his rivals with the advantage of a better road position.
Latvala was uncomfortable in both passes through Nambucca and ran wide in the final stage, the Finn admitting he must be more consistent.
"I need to p1ush as there is no choice if I want to catch Ogier," he said.
"Today's stages for me will be better - I will push, I won't just let him (Ogier) win."
Andreas Mikkelsen was fourth in another Polo R.
The Norwegian was 9.1 seconds off the lead and survived an incident when his baseball cap landed in the footwell after being dislodged from the back of the car following a heavy landing.
Hayden Paddon vaulted into contention when he won both morning stages, having diagnosed a differential problem on his Hyundai i20.
However, gearshift problems and worn tyres left the Kiwi 19.4seconds from the lead in fifth.
Coffs Coast local Nathan Quinn is fourth and the highest-placed Australian.
The rally closes with a ceremonial podium finish in the centre of Coffs Harbour at 3pm today.