SYDNEY (AFP) – Frenchman Sebastien Ogier won the Rally of Australia Sunday but his push for his first FIA World Rally Championship remained on hold until the next leg in France next month.
The Volkswagen driver won 17 of the event's 22 stages, including the Power Stage, and finished with a margin of 1min 32sec. over Thierry Neuville of Belgium.
Finland's Mikko Hirvonen finished the rally third, 2min 02.1sec. behind the winner.
But it was the misfortune of Hirvonen on the 29.44 km second pass through the Shipmans stage near Coffs Habour in northern New South Wales that undid Ogier's title hopes.
The Finn's final test was slowed by a flat left-rear tyre on his Citroen DS3, forcing him to forfeit second place overall to Neuville and allowing the Belgian M-Sport driver also to pick up second in the Power Stage, which provides bonus points for the top finishers.
Neuville's unexpected last-stage ascension in the points standings was enough to deny Ogier's world championship bid, which now must wait until round 11 in France on October 3-6.