We review the major players from last weekend’s Coates Hire Rally Australia in the first of a two-part analysis.
Sébastien Ogier (Volkswagen Polo R)
All kinds of rumours about Ogier’s future were swirling around in Coffs Harbour, but behind the wheel the Frenchman was back to normal. After struggling for motivation in Germany, he had his mojo back. He led after the opening leg despite running first on the road. After outgambling Jari-Matti Latvala on tyre choice, he controlled his lead superbly on the final leg and a second world title is within touching distance.
Mads Østberg (Citroen DS3)
Tough times for Mads. A dodgy differential slowed the Norwegian on the first leg, but even after that was changed he couldn’t shake off Hayden Paddon in their fight for sixth. Broken rear suspension left him limping through the final two stages to finish 16th. The last couple of rallies haven’t really helped him as Citroen boss Yves Matton works on his line-up for 2015.
Mikko Hirvonen (Ford Fiesta RS)
Better from Hirvonen after a lacklustre couple of events. Right on the pace during the opening leg, but couldn’t maintain it through the final two days. Upbeat at times and non-plussed at others as he reckoned he was driving to his maximum. Thrown into a final day battle for fourth with Kris Meeke after the Briton’s penalty, but it was a one-sided affair and Hirvonen had to settle for fifth.
Chris Atkinson (Hyundai i20)
Never in with a shout on his home rally. Six months away from the car – his last competitive outing with Hyundai was in Mexico – left him on the back foot and he couldn’t find a rhythm in the opening leg. That left him to open the road in the final two days and he was all too ready to head for home by Sunday afternoon. Hard to see where he goes from this point.
Hayden Paddon (Hyundai i20)
An outstanding drive from the Kiwi, who was a clear winner in his much-hyped Australasian battle with Atkinson. Held off Mads Østberg initially, and when the Norwegian did slip ahead Paddon refused to give in quietly and capitalised when Mads hit problems. Sixth matched his career-best result, but this was his best drive yet in a World Rally Car. Continues to learn fast and putting himself on the radar for 2015.
Matton critical of ‘inconsistent’ penalty
Citroen boss believes Meeke would have beaten Mikkelsen to third
Capito: ‘It’s overwhelming’
Volkswagen Motorsport boss moved to tears by Australia result
Ogier ranks Australia win near the top
Championship leader reflects on Rally Australia victory