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Australian Grand Prix to lead off 21-race F1 2019 schedule

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The Australian Grand Prix has taken its usual place at the top of the calendar for the 2019 Formula One season, with Melbourne to host the opening race on March 17 at Albert Park.

World governing body FIA said following a meeting of its World Motor Sport Council on Friday that 21 races will be held next year, with 11 in Europe, five in Asia, four in the Americas and one in Australia.

Dates, races and venues for 2019:

March 17: Australia, Melbourne

March 31: Bahrain, Sakhir

April 14: China, Shanghai

April 28: Azerbaijan, Baku

May 12: Spain, Barcelona

May 26: Monaco, Monaco

June 9: Canada, Montreal

June 23: France,Le Castellet

June 30: Austria, Spielberg

July 14: Britain, Silverstone

July 28: Germany, Hockenheim

Aug. 4: Hungary, Budapest

Sept. 1: Belgium, Spa

Sept. 8: Italy, Monza

Sept. 22: Singapore, Singapore

Sept. 29: Russia, Sochi

Oct. 13: Japan, Suzuka

Oct. 27: Mexico, Mexico City

Nov. 3: United States, Austin

Nov. 17: Brazil, Sao Paulo

Dec. 1: Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina

Three in position to capture World Rally Championship title at Rally Australia

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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) Defending champion Sebastien Ogier goes into this weekend’s Rally Australia with a chance to clinch his sixth World Rally Championship in a row. Thierry Neuville, a runner-up four times but never a champion, hopes to change the world order.

Neuville led the series for much of the season but Ogier’s win in Britain and a second place in Spain has given the Frenchman 204 points, three ahead of Neuville, heading into the final rally of the championship.

“We are not the best friends but we are rivals and respect each other for our performances,” Neuville said Wednesday. “I’ve been second many times in the championship now, we are so close to the main goal.”

“If we need to take more risks because we need to pass Sebastien we’re going to try,” the Belgian driver added, “we’ll take the maximum risks.”

Ogier says the feeling is mutual when it comes to his main rival.

“We are different, definitely, but most important we’re in a great fight together and respect each other for that,” Ogier said. “It’s about trying to beat each other and do it with respect.”

Ott Tanak of Estonia sits 23 points behind and with 30 points for a win in Australia, and other results going his way, he could also capture the world title.

Ogier will be hoping for some Friday morning rain to settle the dust and gravel before he sets off first on what will be more than 300 kilometers (180 miles) of timed racing through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast, about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.

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