Let’s be real: with all due respect to the second and third drivers on the three remaining teams eligible for this year’s manufacturer’s title, there are only three cars that the world will be watching in this weekend’s FIA World Rally Championship finale. Kennards Hire Rally Australia will feature a three-way title fight between five-time defending WRC champion Sebastien Ogier, in his last race with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team before returning home to Citroen next year, and top challengers Thierry Neuville and Ott Tanak.
With 24 stages separating us from the next World Rally Champion, here’s a look at all three driver’s title contenders and what they’ll need to do to secure the championship:
#1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia :: M-Sport Ford WRT :: Ford Fiesta WRC
Ogier is the only driver on this list with a direct path to the championship: a win. Up by three over Neuville, the seven-point difference between first and second would be more than enough to cover the Frenchman even if Neuville won the Power Stage and Ogier didn’t score any bonus points. The same Power Stage results would also enable Ogier to win if he finished second overall and Neuville third, or if Ogier finished third overall and Neuville fourth; in those cases, he’d take the title by a single point.
#5 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul :: Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT :: Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC
There are plenty of ways to make up a three-point deficit in WRC thanks to the five-point Power Stage, but Neuville still isn’t entirely in control of his own destiny. If he wins the event but doesn’t earn a bonus point, Ogier can still take the title by a single point by finishing second and winning the Power Stage. And even if he finishes fifth on the Power Stage, Ogier would have the tiebreaker in this case on second place finishes, 3-2. That means an overall win, plus fourth or better on the Power Stage, is his best bet.
#8 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja :: Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT :: Toyota Yaris WRC
Tanak’s 19th place in Wales removed him from immediate title contention, but anything can (and does) happen in WRC. A win plus bad luck for Ogier and Neuville is the obvious bet, but Tanak can take the title with second place and a Power Stage win if Ogier doesn’t score a single point and Neuville earns three points or fewer. Tanak would then beat Neuville on wins, 4-3, and Ogier on second place finishes, 3-2. Tanak has no path to the championship from third place overall or worse in Australia.