But Sebastien Ogier’s third place, a further 7.9 secs back, was enough for the Frenchman to clinch the 2017 drivers’ title, his fifth consecutively but the first with Ford M-Sport.
Unbeatable in the muddy forests of Wales Rally GB for the past four seasons, Ogier appeared a little tentative and conservative during this year’s event, keeping his eye on the championship rather than going after the win in the penultimate round.
Ogier will now go to the series finale on the NSW Coffs Coast on November 16-19 with all championship pressure lifted.
With a third M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver Ott Tänak finishing sixth, Malcolm Wilson’s British privateer team capped an historic weekend by taking the WRC manufacturers’ championship for the first time in 10 years.
Evans, though, was brilliant in front of his local fans, controlling the four-day rally and setting fastest times on nine of the 21 stages and, despite the challenges of rain, fog and muddy roads, he grabbed and held the overall lead from the first speed test on Friday.
“It's been a good rally,” Evans commented after his biggest win in the sport. “I'm incredibly grateful to everybody that has stood by me through all these years – to get to this point has taken a lot. To all the people who have supported me and backed me – this is for you. And this result only makes us even hungrier for more.”
The Welshman became the seventh different winner and the third first-time winner of 2017, alongside Tänak and Toyota’s Esapekka Lappi, in what has been the most competitive WRC season in decades. Co-driven by Daniel Barritt, Evans was the first British driver to win the home round since 2000.
Ogier was emotional after claiming a hard-fought championship with his new team. Four times a champ with VW, Ogier was forced to find another driver this year when the German giant withdrew from the sport. It has been a tough season’ this year Ogier has won only two of the 12 rounds so far but finished on the podium a further seven times.
“I don't know what to say. It’s just incredible. Thank you so much to the whole M-Sport team and Malcolm. It was a hard job. We work all very hard. It’s amazing to be World Champion with this team,” he said through tears.
“I had very, very strong emotions on the finish line. I’m very happy for Elfyn. It’s amazing for M-Sport – victory, two guys on the podium, the manufacturers’ championship, drivers’ world championship – everything!”
WRC teams will now have barely a week to return to their bases and prepare their cars before they are air-freighted to Australia.
Organisers are planning a big welcome for the international and Australian teams entered, with a free Rally Show and Ceremonial Start expected to attract thousands of fans to the closed main street of Coffs Harbour on Thursday 16 November.
The competitors’ service park at C.ex International Stadium will be a hub of rally activity and free entertainment, including driver appearances, music concerts, fireworks, student visits, souvenir sales and a $5000 cash giveaway, throughout the weekend.
There is also a rally within the rally at Coffs - the Australian Rally Championship decider between Molly Taylor and Nathan Quinn
Wales Rally GB (round 12 of 13):
1 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) 2h57m00.6s
2 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +37.3
3 Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrasia (Ford Fiesta WRC) +45.2
4 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +49.8
5 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +50.3
6 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1:02.3
7 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) 1:20.5
8 Hayden Paddon/Sebastian Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe) +2:16.3
9 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2:46.5
10 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i0 Coupe WRC) +3:50.5
2017 FIA World Rally Championship for drivers after round 12:
1 Sebastien Ogier 215
2 Thierry Neuville 183
3 Ott Tanak 169
4 Jari-Matti Latvala 136
5 Elfyn Evans 118
6 Dani Sordo 95
7 Juho Hänninen 71
8 Kris Meeke 70
MotoGP: Dovi wins in Malaysia to keep title hopes alive
Marquez takes a safe fourth in risk-minimisation: takes 21-pont lead to Valencia decider
Ducati’s Andrea Dovizioso bounced back from a bad weekend in Australia to take a bold victory in steamy and slippery conditions in a tension-charged Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, at Sepang, keeping his slender MotoGP title hopes alive to the final round in Valencia in two weekend’s time.
Championship leader, Honda’s Marc Marquez, could only manage fourth as Dovizioso banked his sixth win of the season..
Marquez had a chance to seal the 2017 championship in Sepang but didn’t look his normal assured and confident self through practice and qualifying.
Marquez crashed on his first flying qualifying lap and on his second bike couldn’t do better than seventh, his lowest grid slot of 2017.
Dovizioso showed he wasn’t giving up his slender chance of ripping the world title away from Marquez, qualifying his Ducati second fastest behind Honda’s Dani Pedroso, a noted Sepang specialist.
This penultimate round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship was a must-win race for Dovi..
Steamy, uncomfortably hot Sepang with its ever-changeable weather can always spring surprises and so it was on Sunday when, in typical Malaysian fashion, the sun that had shone until half an hour before the start of the MotoGP race was replaced by a sudden heavy thunderstorm that left the track completely soaked.
From the third row, Marquez, got away brilliantly and hit the lead briefly, completing the first lap in third place behind the exciting rookie Johann Zarco (Yamaha) and Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Dovizioso got into his usual smooth rhythm and moved forward past Marquez to third on lap five.
The top three – Zarco, Lorenzo and Dovizioso were bunching up and with 12 laps remaining, the Spaniard moved into the lead, followed by his Ducati team-mate, while Zarco was struggling with his soft compound rear tyre
Marquez experienced a few moments in his chase and elected to back off and aim at finishing.
Commentators, team bosses, riders and those watching on TV were now doing mental arithmetic to see if Marquez could seal the title deal in Sepang…
If they held station, Marquez would be champ for 2017.
But speculation was rampant that Ducati would implement team orders and tell Lorenzo to relinquish the lead to the championship contender.
Then with less than five laps to the chequer, Lorenzo had a massive moment, barely saving a perilous front-end slide with his left knee.
Dovi slipped past to the lead, potentially saving Ducati accusations of team orders.
With Dovizioso winning the race in front of Lorenzo and Zarco, Marquez will take a 21-point lead to Valencia, meaning that the Ducati rider must win the finale and hope the Honda star .
Pedrosa, who had been the fastest rider in Saturday’s dry conditions, wasn’t the happiest man when the rain started to fall, but the decision to use a soft rear tyre allowed him to keep a decent pace and take fifth place, just behind his team-mate and ahead of Danilo Petrucci, who came from the back of the grid on his back-up Ducati, Valantino Rossi, and Jack Miller.
Marquez commented afterwards: “Today the race was the most difficult one we could have had for the championship because we had rain conditions and the track was extremely slippery. Anyway, I got a good start, and I tried to push at the beginning because I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of the group. Then I tried to find the feeling and the pace but I saw that both the Ducatis were very fast, so I decided to not take too many risks, to be calm, and to get good points for the championship.”
Sadly, the Moto2 title was decided in practice when Thomas Luthi hit the floor hard and was ruled out of Sunday’s race with a broken ankle. This meant Franco Morbidelli was the 2017 champion elect.
The race was a crash fest with more than one third of the field, including Australia’s Remy Gardner, falling. Up front though, the quick guys stayed upright, led by Portuguese Miguel Oliviera.
The in-form Phillip Island winner defied the oppressive humidity and threatening skies to zoom away from KTM team-mate Brad Binder and Morbidelli. This three went on to lock down the podium occupancy. Portugal is not renowned for great motorcycle racers but Oliviera could chance that.
Having secured his first Moto3 championship the previous weekend at Phillip Island, precocious Joan Mir could go out and enjoy himself in Malaysia, securing his first pole of the year before going after yet another win.
One-lap wonder Jorge Martin cleared out with Mir playing his usual controlled waiting game in front of a crocodile chain of a dozen pursuers, most aboard Hondas. Then in a mid race surge, Mir closed on Martin and with 10 laps remaining hit the front. It wasn’t over though as Enea Bastianini and Martin fought past Mir to start a savage three-way battle for the win, Then, with two laps remaining, and as he has done so often, the new world champ checked out for his 10th victory of this season, ahead of Martin and Bastianini.
Rivals will be relieved to see the cool Spanish superkid Mir depart to Moto2 next year.
Unforgettable night in Melbourne for Aussie Jason Doyle
Newcastle rider is world speedway champion and Australian Grand Prix winner
Newcastle’s Jason Doyle has achieved his dream of winning the world speedway championship, doing the deed brilliantly in front of an ecstatic Australian crowd at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.
The 32-year-old professional is the sixth Australian to be crowned FIM World Speedway Champion, but the first to grab the crown in his home country.
It was a just reward after a tough season for Doyle, who has carried the pain of the right foot he broke in Torun four months ago to join Lionel Van Praag, Bluey Wilkinson, Jack Young, Jason Crump, and Chris Holder as Australian speedway world champions.
Doyle went into the meeting with a useful margin of 14 points over the only rider who could catch him in the title chase, Poland’s young coming man Patryk Dudek.
Three terrific wins in his first three heats gave Doyle the points’ grab he needed, with celebrations immediately breaking out in his pit, while family and friends also went wild in the crowd.
It was an emotional night for Doyle, who was favoured to win last year’s title until he was badly injured in Poland just weeks before the Melbourne finale. He had to sit out the decider with a shattered shoulder and elbow, punctured lung and busted ribs.
Doyle’s approach to riding is rarely conservative and on Saturday night he said he took the ‘win it or bin it’ attitude. “The same as I have done all year,” he declared.
After securing the title, Doyle could have been forgiven for thinking he could relax, enjoy the achievement, and go easy in his remaining rides. But he had other ideas, going hard and boldly and topping the points after five heats and then doing enough in his semi final to make the final four.
From an unfavourable grid spot, Doyle fired into second before fiercely rounding up the fast-gating Dudek to win the Australian Speedway Grand Prix. It was stirring stuff.