World Champion Sebastien Ogier ended the 2014 season with an easy on Wales Rally GB on Sunday, his eighth of the year.
The 30 year-old Frenchman secured his second consecutive title at the previous event in Spain. With the Manufacturers’ crown in the bag since Rallye France, Ogier and his Volkswagen teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen were free to battle for victory.
Both would ultimately falter, Mikkelesen on the second stage of the event while lying second. Latvala took the position and pushed Latvala hard through the rest of Leg 1, the pair ending the day a minute clear of the rest of the field.
But Latvala threw his chances away on the first run of Leg 2, losing several minutes after sliding into a ditch. The Finnish ace managed to stay in the lower orders of the top ten for the rest of rally, and salvaged some pride by taking bonus points for winning the Powerstage.
His colleagues’ misfortune left Ogier to cruise to the finish, but behind him, a battle royale developed for the remaining podium positions, between Mikko Hirvonen, Mads Ostberg and Kris Meeke.
M-Sport Ford man Hirvonen, in his WRC swansong, assumed second after Latvala’s crash and spent the rest of the day trading times with Citroen driver Ostberg. But a ten-second penalty dropped the Norwegian out of contention for second, so it was fellow Citroen star Meeke’s turn to spar with Hirvonen.
Meeke’s challenge came unstuck on Leg 3 when he picked up a puncture. With no service stops and only one spare he needed for road sections, he was forced to back off in the stages and dropped to sixth.
Second place was enough for Hirvonen to achieve his goal of being the first non-VW driver in the championship standings. Ostberg recovered to third, some distance behind.
Meeke’s troubles promoted Thierry Neuville and Elfyn Evans to fourth and fifth, the Rally Germany winner doing just enough to stay ahead of the young Welshman.
Ott Tanak finished seventh, ahead of Latvala. Martin Prokop continued his run as best privateer in ninth, while Hyundai junior Hayden Paddon rounded out the points positions in tenth.
Third and sixth was enough for Citroen to finish second in the Manufacturers’ Championship, albeit on the less than half of Volkswagen’s tally. M-Sport Ford missed out by just two points.
Hyundai will be happy that it was still in contention for the runner-up spot going into the last event of its first season. And there’s considerable pride in being the only team to beat Volkswagen this year, in Germany.
There’s not long to wait until the World Rally Championship restarts for the 2015 campaign. The 83rd Monte Carlo Rally kicks the season off on 25 January.
Wales Rally GB top 10 finishers after 23 stages
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC — 3h03m08.2s
- Mikko Hirvonen — M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +37.6s
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC — +1m03.6s
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Shell WRT i20 WRC — +1m14.9s
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC — 1m24.3s
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT DS3 WRC — +2m03.0s
- Ott Tanak — M-Sport WRT Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +2m29.7s
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport Polo R WRC — +2m47.5s
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team Ford Fiesta RS WRC — +3m43.3s
- Hayden Paddon — Hyundai Motorsport N i20 WRC — +3m48.5s
World Championship top 10 after 13 events
- Sebastien Ogier — Volkswagen Motorsport — 267 point
- Jari-Matti Latvala — Volkswagen Motorsport — 218
- Andreas Mikkelsen — Volkswagen Motorsport II — 150
- Mikko Hirvonen — M-Sport World Rally Team — 126
- Mads Ostberg — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 108
- Thierry Neuville — Hyundai Shell World Rally Team — 105
- Kris Meeke — Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 92
- Elfyn Evans — M-Sport World Rally Team — 81
- Martin Prokop — Jipocar Czech National Team — 44
- Dani Sordo — Hyundai Shell World Rally Team — 40
Manufacturers’ Championship after 13 events
- Volkswagen Motorsport — 445 points
- Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team — 210
- M-Sport World Rally Team — 208
- Hyundai Shell World Rally Team — 187
- Volkswagen Motorsport II — 133
- Jipocar Czech National Team — 49
- Hyundai Motorsport N — 28
- RK M-Sport World Rally Team — 26
Images: Volkswagen; Wales Rally GB