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Sebastien Ogier is World Rally champion again
Frenchman takes his fifth title in a row as privateer M-Sport beats the big boys
On the same day Lewis Hamilton became a four-time Formula 1 champion, Sebastien Ogier won his fifth World Rally Championship title. In a row…
He does so not with the might of the VW group behind him – as he did with the all-conquering Polo WRC of his first four titles – but with M-Sport, the Cockermouth-based team that runs his Fiesta WRC.
It’s a big win, as 2017 has seen a new era for World Rallying. Four teams comply with the new regulations that allow the cars to be their most powerful and wild in a long time. Turbo engines with around 400bhp team up with almightily aggressive aero packages.
M-Sport is a private team competing against works efforts from Hyundai, Toyota and Citroen, but has beaten them all with the help of Ogier, who may now be wondering if he can keep going to match the nine WRC titles of rallying’s other Seb, his fellow Frenchman Sebastien Loeb.
He didn’t win at Rally GB in Wales, mind, where the title was picked up. That honour went to teammate Elfyn Evans, proving M-Sport’s success isn’t all down to its flying Frenchman. Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville – who’d been fighting hard for the title until recently – finished second, while Ogier got on the podium with a third-place finish.
Is it a proper rebirth for WRC? The cars have looked mega this year, and while Ogier has taken the title with a round to spare (Rally Australia’s in a couple of weeks), he hasn’t stormed to victory.
Neuville will be looking to fight back in 2018, while Toyota – with rally legend Tommi Makinen as team boss – had viewed this season as a warm-up. Expect bigger things from them in the coming years. But equally, expect Ogier to keep everyone on their toes for a long time yet…