Sebastien Ogier has one hand on the World Rally Championship title after grabbing a narrow lead over Citroen Abu Dhabi’s Kris Meeke on the second day of Rally Australia.
Ogier, driving a Volkswagen Polo, heads into Sunday’s final five stages with a 0.3 second lead over Meeke, who led the rally until the final night stage.
Overnight leader Jari-Matti Latvala faded to third place, 2.6 seconds behind teammate Ogier with his hopes of winning the 2015 title now hanging by a thread.
Ogier has a commanding lead over Latvala and only needs to finish in front of the Finn to take his third consecutive world title.
In a thrilling race around the New South Wales town of Coffs Harbour the top four drivers are separated by less than 10 seconds, with fourth placed Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway 9.1 seconds off the leading time.
Meeke seized the lead in his Citroen after consistent performances on the first two stages, both won by New Zealander Hayden Paddon, who is in fifth placed overall, 19.1 seconds behind the leader.
Latvala slipped from the lead after he admitted to being too cautious on the opening stages.
Ogier began to show his dominance as he won the third stage to close to within 2.6 seconds of Meeke.
He then drove superbly to overtake Meeke on the final stage and put himself in prime position to take his third Rally Australia title in as many years.
Ogier said the lingering dust was a problem on the final stage.
“I was worried about the dust near the beginning but it was OK,” he said.
“Not a good stage for me though — still a lot of dust on the road.
“I expected it would be cleaner. I didn’t find the optimal rhythm so I was not flat out.”
LEG 2 CLASSIFICATION
1. Sebastien Ogier (France) Volkswagen 2:20:51.800
2. Kris Meeke (Britain) Citroen +00:00.300
3. Jari-Matti Latvala (Finland) Volkswagen 00:02.600
4. Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) Volkswagen 00:09.100
5. Hayden Paddon (New Zealand) Hyundai 00:19.400
6. Ott Taenak (Estonia) Ford 00:39.100
7. Thierry Neuville (Belgium) Hyundai 01:03.900
8. Daniel Sordo (Spain) Hyundai 01:10.200
9. Elfyn Evans (Britain) Ford 03:15.100
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) Ford 08:30.400
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