He’s won the last five World Rally Championships but Sebastien Ogier has never had to fight for one like this.The Frenchman’s second placing at last month’s Rally of Spain took him past Belgium’s Thierry Neuville by just three points going into the finale around Coffs Harbour this weekend.
In previous years Ogier has cruised through Rally Australia with the title already secured but this time it can all come undone when he tackles the dusty forestry roads on NSW’s mid-north coast as series leader from Friday.
Estonia’s Ott Tanak is 23 points adrift in third place and, with 30 points up for grabs, is also still a chance of snatching victory in the closest WRC finish in 15 years.
“It’s a special week ahead, with a big fight with three drivers going for the title,” Ogier told AAP.
“It hasn’t happened for me and also for the sport in many years so I’m excited to be part of that, especially given some rallies ago I was not looking so good in the championship.
“But I’ve been able to fight back and it’s all about this weekend.”
Hyundai driver Neuville led by as many as 27 points when he pipped Ogier (Ford Fiesta) to win June’s Rally Italia Sardegna.
Ogier has fought back since then but it will ironically work against him given the slippery conditions he will face as the first car to leave on Friday.
“For me that’s the biggest challenge; it’ll be crucial not to lose too much time on the Friday to pick up a better start position for the rest of the weekend,” he said.
The three days of racing, covering almost 320km of timed sections, will also serve as Ogier’s Ford farewell before he joins Citroen for the 2019 season.
If victorious, Ogier will still be three world titles short of Frenchman Sebastien Loeb’s record nine between 2004 and 2012, although he is already second on the alltime list with five.
“For sure it would be a good one to win,” Ogier said.
“I’ve enjoyed all my titles, last year was a special one and this one would have another great taste, but for that to happen we need to do some work.”