Sebastien Ogier’s mind was understandably elsewhere as he took victory on the WRC season-closing Wales Rally GB, less than 48 hours after terrorist attacks in his homeland of France. Rather than celebrate his victory on the podium, he unfurled a French flag across his Volkswagen’s windscreen in tribute.
Heavy rain and high winds battered North Wales throughout the event, leading to incredibly difficult conditions on the stages. Even so, Ogier had a relatively easy time of it on the way to his eighth victory of the season, leading from the start.
The challenge from lead rival and teammate Jari-Matti Latvala never got going, the Finn crashing out on Friday’s second stage. He restarted on Saturday, but was soon out with gearbox problems. He returned again on Sunday and set the fastest time on every stage, leaving everyone to ponder what might have been.
Latvala’s demise handed Citroen’s Kris Meeke a chance to challenge for victory. He kept Ogier honest throughout, but never looked like he would get near the lead, barring a brief period on Saturday when he headed the timesheets after Ogier was delayed by Thierry Neuville’s crash; Ogier was handed the half-minute he lost back.
Meeke’s second-place finish secured second in the Manufacturers’ Championship for Citroen. Whether or not it guarantees him a seat with the team in 2016 remains to be seen. It was also the best finish by a Brit at home since Richard Burns finished third in 2001.
Andreas Mikkelsen finished third, applying pressure to Meeke throughout. Hyundai’s Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon were fourth and fifth despite a few technical issues and close shaves. Though Paddon got a bit too close to Martin Prokop, having a head-on collision with the Czech privateer on a road section on Saturday. Paddon emerged unscathed, but Prokop’s day was done.
Local hero Elfyn Evans had been challenging for fifth, but a puncture meant he had to settle for sixth on a rally that took him almost past his front door.
Mads Ostberg was fourth until a crash on Saturday dropped him down to seventh. Citroen junior Stephane Lefebvre was eighth, ahead of privateers Robert Kubica and Lorenzo Bertelli.
Elsewhere, David Higgins dominated the production class in his Colin McRae tribute Subaru.
The 2016 World Rally Championship season is scheduled to start in Monte Carlo on 22 January.
Wales Rally GB top ten after 19 stages
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport/VW Polo R WRC — 3:03:02.0
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +26.0
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II/VW Polo R WRC — +36.2
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +2:51.3
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport/Hyundai i20 WRC — +3:00.5
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +3:09.1
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +4:28.4
- Stephane Lefebvre — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT/DS 3 WRC — +5:38.4
- Robert Kubica — RK World Rally Team/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +6:22.7
- Lorenzo Bertelli — FWRT srl/Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +8:05.0
Drivers’ Championship final standings after 13 events
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport — 263 points
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport — 183
- Andrea Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II — 171
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 116
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 112
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Motorsport — 90
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport World Rally Team — 89
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Motorsport — 89
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport — 84
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport World Rally Team — 63
Manufacturers’ Championship final standings after 13 events
- Volkswagen Motorsport — Volkswagen Polo R WRC — 413 points
- Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — DS 3 WRC — 230
- Hyundai Motorsport — Hyundai i20 WRC — 224
- M-Sport World Rally Team — Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 181
- Volkswagen Motorsport II — Volkswagen Polo R WRC — 131
- Hyundai Motorsport N — Hyundai i20 WRC — 67
- Jipocar Czech National Team — Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 53
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By Only Motors