WHAT OGIER, NEUVILLE OR TÄNAK NEED TO WIN THE TITLE IN AUSTRALIA
In just eleven days, it will be the final rally of the year in Australia on the World Rally Championship calendar, and what a year it has been. Throughout the first half it looked like it would be a battle between Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and five-time reigning champion Sebastien Ogier, but after three rally wins in a row, the first time that happened in over three years, Ott Tanak entered the race, however two problem-plagued rallies meant he is effectively out of the running, although Toyota look to win the manufacturers championship Down Under. So what is needed for each driver to claim the 2018 World Championship?
Well, for Sebastien Ogier, he is sitting pretty. Thanks to his win in Wales and second place in Spain, he is now leading the championship with 204 points, albeit Neuville is only three points behind on 201. Obviously all Ogier needs to do is beat Neuville in Australia, and not focus on winning the rally. Looking back at last year, Thierry Neuville won the Rally, so Hyundai may have a small advantage over M-Sport heading into next weekend, but for the first time in WRC history, the title could be decided on the power stage.
Hypothetically let’s say Thierry Neuville won the rally and Ogier came second. That would mean that Neuville would win the title by four points barring the power stage. However if Ogier then won the stage and Neuville failed to finish in the top five, the championship would be Ogiers. Even if they finish lower down the final standings, like third and fourth, as long as Thierry Neuville finishes ahead the power stage would decide the championship. Crazy stuff. If Neuville won the rally and Ogier finishes third, then it would be all over.
Now, for Ott Tanak, he is in a distant third place, some 23 points behind Ogier. There are thirty points on offer for winning the rally and taking all five points at the power stage. Let’s say that Neuville retired, and that Ogier finished the rally in fourth place, playing it safe after the retirement. Tanak would gain thirteen points, and even that would not be enough for the Estonian to take the championship. To be honest, he would need an act from God to win the championship. If both Neuville and Ogier failed to score any points, he would have to win the rally to take the championship.
So: it's a two-horse race. Ogier v Neuville: the story of the championship. Neuville, the thirty year old, has finished second place in the championship three times, all to Sebastien Ogier, with 2017 being the smallest margin of victory for the Frenchman, being 24 points. Will Neuville be able to win the title? Or will Ogier take his sixth WRC title?
One thing's for sure, Rally Australia will be nail-bitingly close and should provide an awesome end to what has been an awesome World Rally Championship.
I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.