WRC Rally Australia Preview

By Louis Ostrowski

With just a single round left in the 2018 World Rally Championship, three driver and co-driver pairs are still with a chance of taking the title during this weekend’s Rally Australia.

Leading the standings are five-time world champions Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in the M-Sport Ford, just three points ahead of Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Nicolas Gilsoul with Toyota’s Ott Tänak and Martin Jarveoja a further 20 behind.

Tänak’s only hope of winning the title are slim and he needs a win Down Under with both Ogier and Neuville not scoring.

The Australian round, based in Coffs Harbour on the East Coast, features 24 stages from Friday to Sunday. 16 of those stages are new after the rally route was revamped for this year’s event.

Those stages are run on dusty gravel roads, many of which are public roads in use through the year. Many are run through the forests of New South Wales, meaning that any mistakes will be harshly punished by the surrounding trees.

The rugged gravel surface means that Ogier, who will open the road order, will face the worst of the conditions and is highly likely that he will loose a lot of time during the first day.

Neuville and Tänak, starting second and third respectively, will hope to benefit from that. Neuville won this event last year, while Tänak followed him home in second.

Ogier, Neuville and Tänak are not just fighting for themselves however; the manufacturer’s championship is also on the line. Toyota currently lead with 331 points but their lead was slashed at the last rally in Spain.

Hyundai sit just 12 points behind with 319 points, while the reigning manufacturer’s champions M-Sport are 25 points off the lead.

Despite taking their first win of the season last time out, Citroën are guaranteed to finish in a lowly fourth place with a meagre 216 points, Spain winner and nine-time champion Sébastien Loeb is not taking part in the Australian event.

Edited by Evgeni Vakov

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