It’s billed as the closest battle for the FIA World Rally Championship in 15 years, as three crews head to this weekend’s Rally Australia looking to become 2018 Champions!

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia journey to the dusty gravel roads of New South Wales with a three point lead over Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul, while Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja are third and still in with a chance of stealing the title – no-doubt ruing their misfortunes after leading both the previous two rounds in Wales and Spain.

There is also the all-important Manufacturers’ championship title to be settled, with Toyota Gazoo Racing, Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team and M-Sport Ford World Rally Team all in with a shout. The Japanese marque currently holds a 12-point advantage over Hyundai, with M-Sport Ford a further 13 points adrift.

This is what the three leading drivers had to say, prior to this weekend’s title showdown Down Under:

Sébastien Ogier
“The Championship could not be closer and we head to the final round in Australia with a slender three-point lead at the head of the standings. It’s a very positive place to be compared to where we were when we were 23 points behind two rallies ago, and the pressure is now on our rivals to overhaul the deficit. Of course we’re aware that opening the road will not be an easy task, but anything can happen and we are ready for the challenge. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success in Australia over the years and our goal is to add to that success this week. We’re ready to do our best, ready to push for a sixth world title, and hopeful of ending what has been an enjoyable and rewarding two years with Malcolm and his team in the best possible way.”

Thierry Neuville
“Recent rallies have not gone our way and we now find ourselves involved in an incredible and intense championship fight. All manufacturers and crews have had ups and downs this season, but we need to put all of this behind us and to focus on a perfect weekend in Australia. The benefit of dropping to second in the drivers’ championship is that we won’t be opening the road on the dusty gravel. It offers only a small advantage but everything counts now. We won from that position twelve months ago and we’ll be targeting the same result next weekend. That will be the best way to take the title.”

Ott Tänak
“I am going to give it my all in Australia. I still have a mathematical chance in the drivers' championship, and even though it is not really in my hands, I will keep pushing and not give up. In the manufacturers' championship we have the advantage and I think we are in a very strong position. In particular, we can be confident in how our car has been performing on gravel over recent events. Rally Australia is always a challenging event but many of the roads are fast and flowing, and this suits us well.”

Based in the New South Wales coastal town of Coffs Harbour, this year’s Rally Australia begins with a ceremonial start on Thursday (15 November), before action gets underway the next day with two loops of three stages through the local rainforests. Saturday (17 November) is the longest day, while a shorter Sunday completes the 24 stage route, which covers almost 200 stage miles. The finish podium will be located in Coffs Harbour city centre, where the Rally Australia winners and 2018 FIA World Rally Champions will be crowned next Sunday afternoon.

Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia, Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul and Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja all wear Stilo WRC DES Zero 8860 helmets.