Runaway World Rally Championship (WRC) leader Sebastien Ogier will still push his car to the limit next week, when he seeks to clinch a hat-trick of titles by winning the Australian Rally for a third straight year.
The dominant Volkswagen Motorsport team can secure the treble of driver, co-driver and manufacturers’ championships by winning the Australian rally to be held in Coffs Harbour from Friday to Sunday.
If Ogier succeeds, it will mark the earliest a driver has clinched the title and it will be his 31st victory, moving into outright second place in the all-time wins list.
He had to wait until the race after Australia to secure his first two titles.
But a victory in the 17-stage, 1023km event next week will put the 31-year-old Frenchman out of reach of second-placed Finn Jari-Matti Latvala, who trails him by 93 points with four of the 13 rounds remaining.
Ogier and co-driver and compatriot Julien Ingrassia have won six of the nine races held so far this year and three of the past four.
“There’s no reason to change the approach I have to this rally. It’s been working perfectly up to this point,” Ogier told AAP on Saturday.
“Of course, I’m even more relaxed to have this lead and obviously, when you are relaxed as a sportsman, you always give a good performance, so I’ll try to fight for the victory like always.
“Every race of the championship, we are pushing the limit and it’s the same here.
“But the roads are really beautiful. Usually it’s very nice to ride in the forest and the only thing sometimes is the roads have a lot of gravel on the surface, which makes them quite slippery for the first part.
“It’s definitely one of the rallies I love and it’s very special to come here to Australia across the world and the nature is different – it’s more wild.”
Night stages are rare in the WRC and Ogier had some reservations about the one scheduled for next Saturday.
“Sometimes by night, the problem is that the dust hangs in the air longer than during the day and then it’s a problem for the visibility, so I hope it won’t be an issue,” Ogier said.
“If I’m honest, it’s not my favourite stage by night because I find it a little bit more dangerous.
“For the show, it’s not so good because spectators cannot really see much by night. They just basically see two very bright lights.
“I think it’s more enjoyable for everyone by day.”