The FIA World Rally Championships are all to play for and M-Sport Ford World Rally Team will fight to defend their crowns at next week’s season finale – Kennards Hire Rally Australia.
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are in prime position and hold a three-point advantage going into the title decider. The team also have a mathematical chance of defending their manufacturers’ title – albeit somewhat more challenging with a 25-point deficit overcome.
The EcoBoost-powered Ford Fiesta WRCs are ready for the battles ahead, and the stage is set for a thrilling final showdown.
Team Principal, Malcolm Wilson OBE, said:
“I can’t remember the last time we went into the final round with the championship as close as it is at the moment. This is rallying at its best and I’m excited to see how the action unfolds.
“Sébastien and Julien are in prime position – leading the standings by a slender three points but leading the standings nonetheless.
“They know how to win championships and they know what it takes to win in Australia. The whole team are behind them, and we are determined to see them end their time with us in the best possible way.
“We also have a mathematical chance in the manufacturers’ championship. It’s a harder task for sure, but anything is possible and Elfyn and Teemu are both keen to play their part and deliver another strong result.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the drama just yet, and rally fans are surely in for a treat whatever the outcome next week.”
RALLY AUSTRALIA: THE GRAND FINALE
The stage is set and Rally Australia is ready to host the 2018 FIA World Rally Championship title decider. Nestled on the Gold Coast between Brisbane and Sydney, the coastal town of Coffs Harbour will provide a stunning backdrop for the most exciting finale in years!
Dusty tracks are the order of the rally and the region’s shire roads are combined with those in the surrounding rainforest and bush. There are a number of new stages this year, but the route continues to offer a variety with a mix of tight, twisty sections and those more fast and flowing.
When dry, the loose terrain presents some of the worst road cleaning of the year; and when wet, it becomes treacherously slippery.
The three championship rivals will be watching the skies with intent over the next few days, but there is more than just the weather to contend with – many stages are lined by trees mere millimetres from the road and visibility can often be a challenge as the low sun creates a strobe effect through the trees.
Needless to say, the eventual winner – and the eventual World Champion – will have faced the challenge head-on and come out on top as the best the rallying world has to offer!
SÉBASTIEN OGIER AND JULIEN INGRASSIA
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia are on the verge of securing a sixth FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers and Co-Drivers – heading into the final round with a slender three-point lead at the head of the standings.
Opening the road on Australia’s loose gravel is notoriously difficult, but they remain in prime position – leading the championship and thus putting the burden firmly on the shoulders of their rivals.
Having won Rally Australia on three previous occasions, Ogier and Ingrassia know what it takes to tame the unique terrain and another win will see them retain their crown – regardless of what their opponents achieve in the rally or the Power Stage!
Previous starts: 7
Best result: 1st (2013, 2014 and 2015)
Sébastien Ogier said:
“The Championship could not be closer and we head to the final round in Australia with a slender three-point lead at the head of the standings. It’s a very positive place to be compared to where we were when we were 23 points behind two rallies ago, and the pressure is now on our rivals to overhaul the deficit.
“Of course we’re aware that opening the road will not be an easy task, but anything can happen and we are ready for the challenge. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in Australia over the years and our goal is to add to that success next week.
“We’re ready to do our best, ready to push for a sixth world title, and hopeful of ending what has been an enjoyable and rewarding two years with Malcolm and his team in the best possible way.”
ELFYN EVANS AND DANIEL BARRITT
Elfyn Evans and Daniel Barritt will be looking to end their season on another high next week – aiming to fight for the top positions and secure their best result at Rally Australia.
The British pairing have endured a tough season with their fair share of bad luck, but are determined to close the year on a positive and help the team secure the best possible result.
Previous starts: 3
Best result: 5th (2017)
Elfyn Evans said:
“I’ve always enjoyed Rally Australia and we’ll be aiming to bring our season to a close with another strong result next week. Following our podium in Spain, it would be great to end the year with another personal best in Australia.
“There’s a friendly and relaxed atmosphere at this event and we’re made to feel welcome from the second we arrive in Coffs Harbour. But the event itself is a real challenge; and totally different from anything else we encounter throughout the year.
“Visibility is often an issue and you have to have complete trust in your notes. Hanging dust isn’t uncommon and when the sun is low it can create a strobe effect through the trees which makes it difficult to read the road. The trees themselves also cast unfamiliar shadows and you really do need to be fully focused and concentrated throughout the weekend.
“I can’t remember a more exciting time in the sport and I think everyone is excited to see what happens next week – ourselves included. We’re ready to give our best and will work hard to deliver the best possible result for the team.”
TEEMU SUNINEN AND MIKKO MARKKULA
Teemu Suninen and Mikko Markkula will make their Rally Australia debut next week, and the Finnish pairing will need to be fully focused from the word go if they are to compete on the same level as their rivals.
Despite his inexperience, Suninen should never be discounted and the young Finn will be determined to end his season with a positive result for both himself and the team.
Teemu Suninen said:
"This will be my first time competing at Rally Australia, but my preparation is the same and I’ve been watching the videos to make sure we’re as prepared as we can be. I did the recce in 2016 but don’t have all the notes for this year’s stages. We’ll need to be concentrated on the recce to be ready to compete on the same level as everyone else.
“As the last round of the season and with the championships being so close, this is also going to be a really interesting and exciting rally. Seb is still in with a strong chance of taking his sixth world title, and the team also have a chance in the manufacturers’ championship. I am ready to give everything in order to be a part of those fights and to end my season on a high."