Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia won their seventh FIA World Rally Championship title in eight seasons with victory at ACI Rally Monza on Sunday afternoon.
Ogier started the final round facing a 14-point deficit to Toyota Yaris teammate Elfyn Evans. They took the lead on Saturday morning, but Evans’ measured pace kept the Welshman on course for a maiden championship success.
But Evans’ dream ended when he crashed down a bank after being caught out by treacherous snow-covered mountain roads.
Ogier eased through Sunday’s rain-soaked final leg at Monza’s Cathedral of Speed circuit to win by 13.9sec and take the crown by eight points. French drivers have claimed the title on 16 occasions in the last 17 years.
After a weekend characterised by never-ending rain at Monza and snow blanketing the roads in the Italian Alps, Ogier endured one final scare in the last kilometres. The wipers on his Yaris briefly failed, leaving him with no visibility behind a muddy windscreen.
“Oh, that was scary! I knew there were still a couple of narrow gates to pass and it would have been challenging without seeing anything,” said Ogier, who has now won the title with three different manufacturers.
“It’s been a difficult weekend. We feel for Elfyn also today. He made a very strong season, very consistent, and we had really good fun to fight each other. I’m very happy and I feel very privileged.”
Outgoing champion Ott Tänak finished second in a Hyundai i20, 1.4sec ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo. The double podium was sufficient to secure back-to-back manufacturers’ titles for Hyundai Motorsport by five points from Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Tänak and Sordo traded places throughout Sunday’s three-stage finale with the Estonian eventually sealing the runner-up spot in the closing test.
Early leader Esapekka Lappi finished fourth in a Ford Fiesta, matching his best result of the season. The Finn was 30.7sec behind Tänak and 21.6sec clear of Kalle Rovanperä’s Yaris. WRC 3 winner Andreas Mikkelsen completed the top six in a Skoda Fabia.
A disappointed Evans restarted this morning after his crash and finished 26th.
1. S Ogier / J Ingrassia FRA Toyota Yaris 2hr 15min 51.0sec
2. O Tänak / M Järveoja EST Hyundai i20 +13.9sec
3. D Sordo / C del Barrio ESP Hyundai i20 +15.3sec
4. E Lappi / J Ferm FIN Ford Fiesta +45.7sec
5. K Rovanperä / J Halttunen FIN Toyota Yaris +1min 11.1sec
6. A Mikkelsen / A Jaeger NOR Skoda Fabia +3min 56.2sec
FIA World Rally Championship (final positions)
1. S Ogier 122pts
2. E Evans 114pts
3. O Tänak 105pts