Andreas Mikkelsen was handed his maiden World Rally Championship win in dramatic style on Rally Spain as long-time leader Sebastien Ogier crashed out on the last stage.
Ogier took the lead on Friday afternoon after early pacesetters Thierry Neuville and Robert Kubica faded. Jari-Matti Latvala moved up to second behind his Volkswagen teammate, mounting a brief challenge before brake problems on Saturday morning put paid to his changes.
That allowed VW junior Mikkelsen to close in, the Norwegian having taken third after Ott Tanak swiped a wheel off his Ford. Latvala and Mikkelsen tussled through the remainder of the rally, and went into the last stage just 1.4secs apart.
The battle allowed Ogier to pull out an unassailable lead but a rare error on the rally closing Power Stage, running wide out of a corner and clouting a barrier, put the Frenchman out of the event.
“I played and I lost,” Ogier told WRC.com. “I entered a little bit fast, not much, maybe 10cm too wide, then I pushed into the barrier and a pole stopped us and removed a wheel. That was game over.”
“I had nothing to prove, there is no need for that any more, but for sure I’m a competitor and I always want to give my best,” he added.
Former double Intercontinental Rally Challenge series winner Mikkelsen didn’t know about Ogier’s crash until he reached the end of the stage. “It was absurd because Ogier never makes mistakes,” the 26-year old said “so when they told me I didn’t believe it.
“It was a big surprise, and although it’s not the way I want to win a rally, we’ve been so close so many times that I feel I really deserve this one.”
Latvala emerged from the final stage 3.1secs adrift. Local hero Dani Sordo was bumped into a podium position for Hyundai. Citroen’s Mads Ostberg was fourth after teammate Kris Meeke had a spin.
Hayden Paddon was sixth ahead of leading privateer Martin Prokop and fellow Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville. WRC2 leaders Pontus Tidemand and Jan Kopecky closed out the top ten in their Skodas.
One round remains, Wales Rally GB on 13-15 November. Though both the Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles have already been settled, in Ogier and Volkswagen’s favour, there are still disputes to be resolved, particularly between Citroen and Hyundai for second the Manufacturers’ race. With little to lose, everyone will probably just go absolutely flat-out which should make it one of the most entertaining rallies of the year.
Rally Spain top ten finishers after 23 stages
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — 3:21:04.8
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — +3.1
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +21.2
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +1:06.3
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +1:08.3
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N/Hyundai i20 WRC — +1:23.3
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +4:14.2
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +8:01.9
- Pontus Tidemand — Skoda Motorsport/Skoda Fabia R5 — +8:56.8
- Jan Kopecky — Skoda Motorsport/Skoda Fabia R5 — +9:07.5
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By Only Motors