Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jaeger won the final round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship to end Volkswagen Motorsport’s spell in the series on a high note. Thierry Neuville (Hyundai/Michelin) made sure of the season’s runner-up honours in Australia, while Esapekka Lappi is the WRC2 champion in association with Skoda and Michelin.
After 225 competitive kilometres and two days of searing heat, Mikkelsen, Sébastien Ogier and Haydon Paddon were split by just 12s ahead of Rally Australia’s final day.
The definitive order was essentially settled on SS20 (Bucca, 31.90km) when Paddon (4th, Hyundai/Michelin) hit a bank and Sébastien Ogier (2nd, VW/Michelin) span with the finish in sight.
After that, Mikkelsen was able to freewheel to Volkswagen’s last WRC victory and its 43rd with the VW Polo R WRC/Michelin since 2013. Despite his win, the Norwegian was forced to settle for third place in the 2016 Drivers’ championship since Paddon’s mistake on SS20 allowed Neuville to steal third overall in Australia and second place behind Ogier in the Drivers’ standings.
“I loved the last stage in the VW Polo R WRC/Michelin. I would like to thank everyone in the team for these four fabulous years,” announced Ogier after winning one last Power Stage with VW.
The thrilling battle for fifth place between Dani Sordo (Hyundai/Michelin), who took a 20-second penalty on Day 1, and Mads Ostberg (Ford/Michelin) ended in the Spaniard’s favour on SS20 when the Norwegian was hampered by dust in his cockpit.
Skoda Motorsport and Michelin sealed the WRC2 crown with Finn Esapekka Lappi who topped the class in Australia, ahead of Nicolas Fuchs (Skoda) and Hubert Ptaszek (Peugeot/Michelin). His main title threats Teemu Suninen and Elfyn Evans did not make the trip to New South Wales.
Rally Australia was the final outing of the current-generation World Rally Cars which first appeared in 2011. They will be succeeded by faster, more spectacular cars when WRC action resumes with the 2017 Rallye Monte-Carlo on January 18-22.