Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia celebrate their sixth World Rally Title. Photo: Getty Images

Sebastien Ogier wins sixth straight World Rally Championship

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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia — Sebastien Ogier won his sixth straight World Rally Championship after a final day of racing at Rally Australia ended the hopes of his only two challengers for the season title.

The Frenchman started a wet Sunday needing to hold his spot ahead of Thierry Neuville, while overnight rally leader Ott Tanak also remained with a chance of moving ahead of Ogier.

Instead it was that pair which failed to finish, with Neuville clipping a tree with three stages remaining and Tanak running off the road on the second-last stage.

Neither was able to recover, with the dual retirements assuring Ogier another title regardless of how he fares on the season’s final stage.

The 34-year-old Ogier sealed the title in fashion, though, blitzing the seven-kilometer Wedding Bells final stage to claim his only forest stage victory of the rally and five bonus points.

Toyota’s Jari-Matti Latvala claimed Rally Australia honors, beating New Zealand’s Hyundai driver Hayden Paddon by 32.5 seconds and securing his team their first manufacturers’ title since 1999. Ogier was fifth.

Three points behind Ogier ahead of Rally Australia, Neuville’s crash and blown tire on Friday cost him 40 seconds and proved to be the decisive margin before his retirement on Sunday.

Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia will join Citroen next year after two successful seasons with Ford and four with Volkswagen.

“The season was so intense and it just happened in between stages,” Ogier said. “I’m so proud of what we achieved, so proud of my team, you are the best. I enjoyed my last push in this car; I hope I will not miss it.”

Ogier finished the season with 219 points, with Neuville on 201 and Tanak 181.

The 24-stage Rally Australia over mostly forestry roads in northern New South Wales state covered 319 kilometers (197 miles).

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.