Ogier claims third WRC title in Australia

© AP

Sebastien Ogier clinched his third consecutive FIA World Rally Championship crown on Sunday by claiming an unlikely victory in Rally Australia.

The unique nature of the running order for the rally meant that Ogier often had to contend with the worst conditions on the gravel stages, running ahead of his rivals to leave them with a cleaner course.

This had allowed Citroen’s Kris Meeke to move into the lead, but an incorrect tire call on Saturday caused the Briton to drop back and hand the advantage back to Ogier.

A perfect Sunday saw Ogier win the rally by 12.3 seconds from Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala and clinch his third consecutive world championship in emphatic fashion.

“It’s an amazing season, the best I’ve ever done,” Ogier said. “No mistakes, so many great performances and this one is once again a very high one.

“It’s the most difficult rally to open the road and still we managed to win. It’s the perfect way to get my third title.”

Latvala extended his advantage for second place in the drivers’ championship by completing a VW one-two in Australia, whilst Meeke recovered from his setback to score his second podium finish of the year in third.

Andreas Mikkelsen was unable to join his VW teammates on the podium, finishing fourth overall. However, the German marque’s success was enough to clinch it the manufacturers’ championship ahead of Hyundai. Ogier’s co-driver, Julien Ingrassia, also won his respective title in Australia.

New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon took full advantage of his promotion to the Hyundai A-team for the weekend to finish fifth overall, and was followed home by Ott Tanak and Thierry Neuville. Dani Sordo, Elfyn Evans and Nasser Al-Attiyah rounded out the top ten.

The WRC returns at the beginning of October with the Rallye de France in Corsica.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.