MILAN (Reuters) – Sebastien Ogier clinched the world rally championship for the seventh time in eight years after the Frenchman won the season-ending Rally Monza on Sunday.
French drivers named Sebastien have now won 16 of the last 17 titles, with Sebastien Loeb winning nine in a row with Citroen before Ogier, 36, took over at the top from 2013.
His Toyota team mate Elfyn Evans, who had a 14-point lead before the final round in northern Italy, crashed out on a snowy Saturday but returned for the final three stages at Monza circuit on Sunday.
Ogier won the rally by 13.9 seconds, with Hyundai’s outgoing champion Ott Tanak runner-up to finish third overall in the championship.
Ogier, who has now won titles with three different manufacturers after four with Volkswagen and two for Ford, finished eight points clear of the Welshman in a championship reduced to seven rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Evans finished outside the top 10 but banked three points from the final Power Stage in wet conditions.
“It was a difficult weekend and this last stage was not enjoyable,” said Ogier, whose car’s wipers failed him momentarily on the muddy final stage.
“I knew there were still a couple of narrow gates to pass and it would have been challenging without seeing anything,” he added.
“We feel sorry for Elfyn. We had great fun fighting each other this season, and I am sure next year will be the same.”
Tanak finished 1.4 seconds ahead of Spanish team mate Dani Sordo, to clinch the manufacturers’ title for Hyundai — five points clear of Toyota — for the second season in a row.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Hugh Lawson)