Kris Meeke fourth in Rally Australia as Sebastian Ogier closes in on world title
Sebastien Ogier moved a step closer to defending his World Rally title on Sunday as Volkswagen secured the manufacturers' title with a podium clean sweep at Rally Australia.
It was Ogier's 22nd career win - his sixth of the season - and extended his advantage over team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala to 51 points with three rounds of the championship remaining.
The 30-year-old Frenchman headed into the final day with an 11.8-seconds advantage and won SS16 and SS18 to hold off Latvala by 6.8secs in New South Wales, with Andreas Mikkelsen completing the top three a further 1min 11.2secs adrift.
Ogier, who could clinch the crown at his home rally in the Alsace region of France next month, acknowledged his win had not been as comprehensive as he managed last year but said he was just happy to have got the job done.
"This year it wasn't possible to have that. Jari-Matti was strong but today I knew that without mistakes I would be okay," he said on www.wrc.com.
"I tried to stay concentrated, pushing when it was clean and being more cautious in the tricky parts. It wasn't a big winning margin, but enough to win the rally and another crucial step towards winning the title."
Latvala had held a narrow lead after Saturday morning's opening loop, but was left to rue his tyre choice on Saturday afternoon when the forecast rain failed to materialise, and appeared resigned to missing out on the title after Ogier's latest victory.
"It has been a great fight, a really great fight. I enjoyed it a lot," the 29-year-old Finn said. "But of course I am annoyed about Saturday's wrong tyre choice - that is where I lost it.
"Overall, though, a good event - these are the sort of results I need to have if I am going to win the title myself one day."
Norway's Mikkelsen edged Northern Irishman Kris Meeke (Citroen DS3) for third place, with Finland's Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta RS) fifth and New Zealander Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20) a career-best sixth.