This year's World Rally Championship season was a tight one, with three drivers in contention for the title. Heading into the final round, it was a close fight among Elfyn Evans, defending champion Ott Tanak, and multiple-time champion Sebastien Ogier.
When the grit settled in Rally Monza, it was Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia who clinched the title. Before the snowy tarmac rally, the duo sat in second behind teammates Evans and Scott Martin. So how did he do it?
Ogier and Evans were neck and neck for every stage. The two were separated by a few seconds for the first two days of the rally, with Ogier maintaining a 5.1 second lead over Evans. At the time, Ogier sat in third while Evans was in fourth with Hyundai's Dani Sordo and Ford's Esapekka Lappi in first and second, respectively. For Ogier to win the title, he should win the rally to overtake his teammate in the standings.
But fate would favor Ogier on the final two days of Rally Monza. Sordo received a penalty for cutting a chicane, while Lappi's Ford Fiesta dropped in performance. But helping Ogier clinch his seventh title was Evans' costly error on the third day. The Welsh driver spun out and crashed on stage 11, forcing him to retire.
Even though he rejoined the rally at later stages, Evans' title hopes slid away around Monza's icy corners. With that, all Ogier had to do was control his pace and cruise to victory, but rallying is a hugely unpredictable sport. The French driver had a scare after his windshield wipers failed, making co-driver Ingrassia's pace notes even more vital. Despite that setback, the two remained unfazed and took the win and the championship on the last day.
Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia have been one of the strongest pairings in the sport for the past ten years. The duo holds the distinction of having titles with three different manufacturers, namely Volkswagen, Ford, and now, Toyota.