Australia Debrief: Part Two

As we continue our look back at a thrilling championship finale during last weekend’s Kennards Hire Rally Australia, we shine the spotlight on a key moment in the title fight and remember a menacing water splash that almost took two cars out of the reckoning.

You’ll never believe it

Spectacular WRC water splashes are commonplace in Argentina. But New South Wales matched anything South America could offer. With heavy rain transforming innocuous water crossings into huge, deep puddles, some drivers hit trouble – literally.

Ott Tänak was the first to come unstuck in the aptly-named Coldwater 2 test. The title-chasing Estonian went into a water crossing far too hot and his Yaris emerged without its entire front bumper assembly.

The same spot also caught out his Toyota Gazoo Racing team-mate Esapekka Lappi, as his car ingested gallons of water and developed a troublesome misfire. Both men were lucky they could continue to the end of the stage.

Turning point of the rally

With just Sunday afternoon’s three stages remaining, Thierry Neuville and Ott Tänak threw caution to the wind as they desperately tried to deny Sébastien Ogier a sixth drivers’ title.

But with stages caked in thick, slippery mud after overnight rain, the conditions weren’t exactly conducive to taking risks and pushing to the extreme.

Neuville’s quest for a first title ended when he hit a bank in SS22 and ripped a rear wheel off his Hyundai i20, while Tänak’s charge ended a stage later when he slid into a tree. With both of his rivals out, Ogier was free to cruise to another title.

A water splash spectacularly damaged Tänak's Yaris

Quote of the rally

Despite a two-month gap since he last appeared behind the wheel of Hyundai’s i20, Hayden Paddon’s confidence grew with every stage in Australia.

Winning SS13 by 0.1sec, the Kiwi was clearly revelling in the conditions and wasn’t afraid to let his rivals know. “I could drive like this 365 days of the year,” he beamed.

Full of confidence, Paddon continued impressively and netted second place at the finish.

Surprise of the rally

It’s been a tough season for Citroën, with the French manufacturer’s C3 struggling to consistently match its rivals’ pace.

But after Sébastien Loeb’s rally-winning success in Spain, the team’s early showing in Australia offered a glimpse of how it could be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.

Seeing Mads Østberg and Craig Breen make the most of a favourable road position to power their cars to the top of the standings after day one will have boosted the team’s confidence.

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