Ogier powers ahead in opening leg of Rally Australia

The battle for the lead in Rally Australia is incredibly close following the opening day of action.

Ogier powers ahead in opening leg of Rally Australia
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Robert Kubica and Maciek Szczepaniak, Ford Fiesta WRC
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Yurii Protasov and Pavlo Cheperin, Ford Fiesta R5
Robert Kubica and Maciek Szczepaniak, Ford Fiesta WRC
Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila, Volkswagen Polo WRC, Volkswagen Motorsport
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC
Subhan Aksa and Nicola Arena, Ford Fiesta
Jourdan Serderidis and Frederic Miclotte, Ford Fiesta R5
Mads Ostberg and Jonas Andersson, Citroën DS3 WRC, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team
Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, M-Sport Ford Fiesta WRC
During a day that has seen the lead of Rally Australia change four times, reigning World Champion Sébastien Ogier has jumped into first position on the final stage of the opening day of competition.
 

Four drivers, four seconds

Such is the intensity at the top of the leaderboard, four drivers are now split by just 4.1 seconds and the top five are covered by less than eight seconds. Jari-Matti Latvala is second and Andreas Mikkelsen makes it a one-two-three for Volkswagen Motorsport this evening.
 
Coates Hire Rally Australia started in earnest this morning with the crews tackling two identical loops of three stages before returning to Coffs Harbour for two runs around the short super special stage. This morning conditions proved tricky for those running at the front of the field, the road cleaning effect becoming more marked stage by stage.
 
Ogier took the early lead, the Frenchman winning the opening stage despite his position of first on the road, but Meeke powered ahead in the third stage after two stage wins. The Northern Irish driver maintained his advantage for the rest of the day, but lost out on the two final runs through the super special stage, such was the closeness of competition. He overnights fourth but is only 4.1 seconds adrift of the lead.

Latvala rebounds

Jari-Matti Latvala will doubtless be surprised to see himself in second position after a poor start this morning. The Finn was unhappy with the brakes in the opening stage but started to regain confidence in the second after bleeding them between the stages. He won two stages this afternoon and moved from fifth to second in the final forestry stage.
 
He then briefly led the rally after the first super special stage, only to drop 0.4 seconds behind Ogier after the final run. Mikkelsen has had a very solid drive to third with nothing more than a couple of small mistakes. Behind fourth-placed Meeke, Mikko Hirvonen is having one of his best outings of the season. The Finn, who has won Rally Australia three times, has similarly run without problems and continues to fight for the victory; he is only 7.9 seconds off the lead.

Behind the flying five

Behind the flying five, Hayden Paddon is the top Hyundai i20 WRC driver. He was lucky to escape damage after a jump kicked the car off the road and pitched it on to its nose in the opening stage. He is sixth with team-mates Thierry Neuville and Chris Atkinson 10th and 11th respectively. Neuville went straight on at a junction in the first stage and then broke the rear suspension this afternoon after clipping a stone.
 
Australia’s Atkinson has just not got into the rhythm today and will be disappointed to be outside the top 10 on his home round of the Championship. Seventh is Mads Østberg, the Norwegian off the road and without confidence this morning. At the lunchtime service, however, a damaged rear diff was found to be the cause of the problem. Robert Kubica is eighth, a spin early in the day losing him time. Fellow Fiesta RS WRC driver Elfyn Evans has just been unable to get into a comfortable rhythm throughout the day and he is ninth overnight.

Current running order

1 Sebastien Ogier Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 58m05.8s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen 0.4s
3 Andreas Mikkelsen Volkswagen Motorsport II Volkswagen 3.5s
4 Kris Meeke Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 4.1s
5 Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ltd Ford 7.9s
6 Hayden Paddon Hyundai Motorsport N Hyundai 46.4s
7 Mads Ostberg Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT Citroen 50.3s
8 Robert Kubica RK M-Sport WRT Ford 57.6s
9 Elfyn Evans M-Sport Ltd Ford 1m30.5s
10 Thierry Neuville Hyundai Motorsport Hyundai 2m08.4s

FIA WRC

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