Sebastien Ogier has snatched his sixth World Rally Championship title in six years by surviving the tricky wet stages of Rally Australia.
The championship was Ogier’s to lose on his last day with the M-Sport team and the Frenchman was the last man standing in the title battle in what was rapidly becoming a mud rally.
Ogier finished in fifth and his slow and steady approach was enough to retain the crown after title-rivals Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak both crashed out of the Sunday afternoon stages.
That left Jari-Matti Latvala to take his first victory since Sweden 2017, and secured Toyota the manufacturers’ title.
Latvala had been matching the pace of team-mate Tanak throughout Saturday and Sunday and was leading the event when a collision with a tree for Tanak left him with transmission issues that prevented him from continuing.
The expected result of the afternoon loop was that Latvala would concede the win to Tanak to support the Estonian’s outside chance of title victory.
But by completing the second running of Sapphire with minimal damage when no-one came through the stage unscathed Latvala maintained his position.
Hayden Paddon finished in second after a strong weekend for Hyundai, with Friday’s leader Mads Ostberg in third.
Esapekka Lappi’s fourth place was enough to secure Toyota the manufacturers’ championship despite Tanak’s retirement.
Ogier was happy to sit behind, knowing as long as he finished sixth or better Tanak could not steal the title.
Neuville, his closest rival coming into the event, had a weekend that went from bad to worse.
The Belgian’s hopes for title victory began to fade after roadsweeping meant he was initially struggling for pace before suffering puncture on Friday and suspension damage on Saturday.
He had recovered to a points-scoring position when he hit a bank on the first stage of Sunday afternoon and was unable to continue.
Elfyn Evans finished in sixth despite co-driver Dan Barritt having to wrestle the passenger door shut throughout SS23.
Craig Breen took seventh despite encountering a myriad of problems from clipping a kangaroo on the opening stage of the weekend to spinning on the powerstage.
Alberto Heller finished in eighth and took WRC2 victory on his second outing in the category.
Ogier claimed the maximum five powerstage points available despite the title not going down to the final stage of the season.