FRENCHMAN Sebastien Ogier could clinch the FIA World Rally Championship for drivers at next month's Coates Hire Rally Australia, following an epic ADAC Rallye Deutschland at the weekend.
The rally was won by Citroen driver Dani Sordo, but Ogier retains a huge lead in the drivers standings despite finishing only 17th on the home event for his Volkswagen Motorsport team.
Volkswagen says if Ogier can manage to extend his lead to 84 points or more after the next round on the Coffs Coast, he can no longer be caught in the chase for the title.
Coates Hire Rally Australia, Round 10 if the WRC, will be staged over September 12-15.
Thirty cars have been entered to contest the WRC section of the event.
Sordo's victory was his first in the WRC after 34 podiums from 106 starts and almost 10 years of trying.
The 30-year-old came good to beat Thierry Neuville by 53sec in a last-stage showdown that was settled only when the Belgian went off the road 3km from the finish.
Sordo, the 2005 junior world champion, started the final Dhrontal test in the narrow Mosel vineyards with a 3.0sec advantage in his Citroen DS3, but it had been just 0.8sec at the start of the day.
He stretched his advantage in the early part of the 24.58km stage, before Neuville fought back. The duo was tied at the final split point with just over 4km remaining, but Neuville's hopes of his own maiden victory were dashed when his Ford Fiesta RS went off the road.
"It's a great moment for me," an emotional Sordo said as he embraced his parents at the stop line.
"Thierry was pushing so hard. He was a little slower than me at first but then he was faster so I needed to push harder. I was so nervous at the start but this win is something I've dreamed of for many years."
After the demise of early leader Ogier, who broke his Volkswagen Polo R's suspension in a crash early in the second Neuville had the better of Friday's second leg to build a 19.0sec advantage, but the roles were reversed on Saturday and when Latvala crashed, Sordo ended the penultimate day with a lead of just 0.8sec to set up a thrilling finale.
Sordo's victory, after four-days and 371.86km of asphalt action in the vineyards and military roads of south-west Germany, means Citroen maintained its unblemished record there, having won every year since the rally entered the championship in 2002.
Coates Hire Rally Australia will start in 17 days with the Coates Hire Rally Show and ceremonial start in the Coffs Harbour mall from 4pm on Thursday, September 12.
Tickets to see the WRC action at 30 points around the Coffs Coast course are on now sale at http://www.rallyaustralia.com.au and rally shops in the city's Coffs Central and Park Beach Plaza shopping centres.
The event also promises a packed entertainment program, based around the Brelsford Park Rally Hub in Coffs Harbour and at the Flooded Gum Rally Village.
In addition to the nightly Armor All Super Special Stage, entertainment highlights will
• Samantha Jade - 2012 X Factor winner, performing at the Rally Hub on Saturday night
• Thunderstruck - AC/DC tribute band, performing at the Rally Hub on Friday night
• The Red Bull Stunt Plane - Friday and Saturday over the Rally Hub and Sunday over the
Flooded Gum Rally Village spectator point
• The RAAF Roulettes stunt team - Friday and Saturday over the Rally Hub and Sunday
over the Flooded Gum Rally Village spectator point
• Freestyle motocross, featuring X Games gold medalist and Nitro Circus star Cam
Sinclair - Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Rally Hub
• A demonstration by 10 top Off Road racers on Thursday at the Rally Hub
• Skydivers over the Rally Hub
• Live TV on a Super-Screen at the Rally hub
• The Cloud 9 Ultimate Destination premium viewing facility
• Audi quattro S1 and MG Metro 6R4 Group B Rally car demonstration, Rally Hub
Backing up cars contesting the WRC will be the East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally
Championship, Classic Rally Challenge and Side-by-Side Challenge.
Rally Australia also will host a round of the Australian Off Road Championship over a
separate course on 14-15 September.
Positions for volunteer officials are still available by registering at http://www.rallyaustralia.com.au.
Results, ADAC Rallye Deutschland (WRC Rd 9)
1 D Sordo/C Del Barrio (Citroen) 3h 15m 19.4s
2 T. Neuville/N Gilsoul (Ford) Gap to first +53.0s.
3 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Citroen) +2:36.1
4 M Prokop/MErnst (Ford) +8:00.8
5 R Kubica/M Baran (Citroen) +9:01.3
6 E Evans/D Barritt (Ford) +9:14.2
7 J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Volkswagen) +9:55.0
8 H Paddon/J Kennard (Skoda) +13:01.2s
9 M Ostberg/J Andersson (Ford) +13:28.1
10 E Novikov/I Minor (Ford) +15:17.9
Driver standings (after Rd 9)
1 S Ogier 184
2 T Neuville 109
3 J-M Latvala 98
4 Dani Sordo 96
5 M Hirvonen 88
Manufacturers standings (after Rd 9)
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 262
2 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 236
3 Qatar WRT 127
4 Qatar M-Sport 126
5 Jipocar Czech 51