Seventh heaven: Sébastien Ogier snatches 7th WRC title in wild Monza final
© Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Content Pool
It was joy for Sébastien Ogier as he claimed his 7th WRC title in eight years in a thrilling Monza series finale, but heartbreak for Elfyn Evans after he crashed out of the championship lead in Italy.
Ogier started the final round at the iconic motor racing circuit facing a 14-point deficit to Toyota team-mate Elfyn Evans, who was looking to secure his first WRC crown in Italy. Ogier took the lead on Saturday morning, but Evans's measured pace kept the Welshman on course for a maiden championship success.
Evans's dream ended in devastating fashion, however, when he crashed down a bank after being caught out by treacherous snow-covered mountain roads.
Following Evans's heartbreak, Ogier eased through Sunday's rain-soaked final leg at Monza's Cathedral of Speed circuit to win the rally by 13.9s from Ott Tänak and take his seventh World Rally Championship crown by eight points. French drivers have now claimed the WRC title in 16 of last 17 years.
After a weekend characterised by never-ending rain at the Monza circuit and snow blanketing the roads higher in the Italian Alps, Ogier endured one final scare in the last kilometres when the wipers on his Yaris briefly failed, leaving him with no visibility behind a muddy windscreen.
"Oh, that was scary! I knew there were still a couple of narrow gates to pass and it would have been challenging without seeing anything," said Ogier, who's now won the WRC title with three different manufacturers. "It's been a difficult weekend. We feel for Elfyn also today. He drove a very strong season, very consistent, and we had really good fun fighting each other. I'm very happy and I feel very privileged."
Outgoing champion Tänak finished second in a Hyundai i20, just 1.4s ahead of team-mate Dani Sordo. The double podium from the pair was sufficient to secure back-to-back manufacturers' titles for Hyundai Motorsport by five points from Toyota Gazoo Racing.
Tänak and Sordo traded places throughout Sunday's three-stage finale, with the Estonian eventually sealing runner-up spot in the closing test.
A disappointed Evans restarted the rally on Sunday morning after his crash and finished 26th.