Coffs Harbor – French dominant Sebastien Ogier finished its sixth world title Sunday in a final race last year that took place in Australia, where Belgian Thierry Neuville and Crown of Ott Tanak from Estonia are being refused.
In one of the closest seasons lately, M-Sport Ford came to Coffs Harbor with a three-point cushion against Neuville from Hyundai and 23 in front of Toyota Tanak.
All he had to do was stay in front of the Belgian and contact Tanak in the three days of frantic driving along dusty and slippery roads.
The experienced champion and co-driver Julien Ingrassia just did this, gaining an early advantage when Neuville lost 40 seconds the day after he breathed a tire.
When Neuville knocked a bench and broke a wheel in the car, and Tanak cut a tree, forcing his retirement as they risked a desperate attempt to make time Sunday afternoon, the title was before the end of the rally.
Toyota (368 points) won the constructors' championship before Hyundai (341), M-Sport Ford (324) and Citroen (237).
Ogier admitted he had run a series of stages on Sunday as "my grandfather would do" knowing that mistakes could be costly for a race won by Finnish driver Jari-Matti Latvala, 32.5 seconds ahead of Hayden Paddon in New Zealand in a Hyundai .
"It was an incredible season, so tough, and it's so exciting," said the Frenchman, who finished fifth in Australia.
"I'm so proud of what we've done and proud of our team. We had an amazing journey together."
He has now won six titles in a row to travel to three of the biggest drivers ever, French fellow Sebastien Loeb, who supported us in the run between 2004-2012.
This was his last race for Ford, before a change next year at Citroen on a two-year contract.
He was part of the Citroën team in 2008-11, before decamping at Volkswagen in 2013-16, when he won four world titles and then M-Sport Ford, where he won fifth and sixth place.
The rain that was forecasted for the region finally arrived early Sunday, leaving the slippery forest roads because Tanak nightmare found its cost, slipping into the trees on the second stage of the day.
He lost 12 seconds to teammate Latvala, who made global leadership in a race that the Estonian not only won, but also called bonus points in the closing phase of the event to have the hope of eclipsing Ogier.
The Frenchman did not take any risk, unlike Neuville who touched a bank while pushing hard and then had trouble escaping in the morning.
Despite this, he managed to escape to leadership, but eventually was useless.
The Belgian had to return 39 seconds in the last three stages, but he stopped in the third stage with the car's damage, and when Tanak failed to finish the penultimate stage, Ogier was champion.
"We did everything and took some risks to try to get the title," Neuville said.
"We did not have to lose, in SS22 the conditions were very bad, we went wide, we cut a tree, we destroyed our car and retired."