2018 reflections - part 1

This year’s FIA World Rally Championship will be remembered as a classic after 13 epic chapters of drama, excitement and intrigue culminated in a storybook finale on the final page in Australia.

In our multi-part lookback, we recall the defining stories that made 2018 a season to savour.

Ogier – the toughest triumph yet

Six of the best for Sébastien, placing him three world titles behind his namesake and fellow Frenchman Loeb. But 2018 was different. It was the first one finalised in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of a final round decider.

Three wins in the opening four rallies lifted the M-Sport Ford man and co-driver Julien Ingrassia 17 points clear of Thierry Neuville. But a purple patch for the Belgian, combined with a Portuguese tree root which damaged Ogier’s steering and sent his Fiesta into a ditch, transformed the year.

Ogier trailed the Hyundai i20 pilot by 23 points heading to Britain with three rounds remaining. He slumped to third in the standings, in the unusual position of being the hunter rather than the hunted.

His fighting instincts were unearthed. A scrapping fifth British win preceded second in Spain after another tense final day finale and it all came down to Australia – with Seb back on top but chased by Neuville and Ott Tänak.

Ogier's victory in Britain was immense

Ogier was sublime in the New South Wales forests. First in the start order initially was the worst place to be, sweeping loose gravel off the roads to the benefit of his pursuers behind.

His single-minded determination, his refusal to be defeated and the experience garnered from those previous five titles earned number six rather than outright pace Down Under.

He did a fantastic job of removing the pre-start pressure from his shoulders and never put a wheel wrong on some of the trickiest roads of the campaign as Neuville and Tänak made mistakes.

Ogier would be first to admit he benefited on several occasions from the assistance of team-mates Elfyn Evans and Teemu Suninen, who sacrificed their results for the greater good. But we also witnessed some of the best performances of his career.

While he regarded the last leg drive in Gwydir Forest that re-established his GB lead ‘as close to perfection as I can get’, it was Ogier’s prize-fighter battling qualities when the chips were down that earned this title - and made it perhaps his most valued yet.

Tomorrow: Ott Tänak and Kris Meeke

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