PHOTO: Shadowed by a TV helicopter, Sèbastien Ogier races to victory in Rally Germany (Volkswagen pic)
VOLKSWAGEN’S Sébastien Ogier ended a six-event winless streak in the FIA World Rally Championship ninth round at ADAC Rallye Deutschland today.
The Frenchman’s 20.3s win was the third of his WRC career on Germany’s challenging asphalt roads and extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship standings by 14 points, while VW remained in command of the manufacturers’ championship with a 55-point lead.
Ogier has won the past three years’ Australian WRC rounds and will return to the New South Wales Coffs Coast for the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia on 17-20 November. Tickets for Rally Australia are available now at Ticketek.com.
In Germany, Ogier carefully guided his Polo R to the top of the leaderboard on his team’s all-important home event after enduring a difficult start on leg one, when he overshot a hairpin.
When the event moved into the infamous Baumholder military proving ground yesterday, the triple world champion’s experience shone as he easily swept aside rally leader and teammate Andreas Mikkelsen.
Ogier was able to control his pace at the front on the final leg today and finished with a precisely-crafted advantage over Hyundai’s Dani Sordo.
“This is great. I haven’t had a chance to win on the recent rallies and I was missing that feeling for sure,” Ogier said at the finish, referring to the fact he had not won since Rally Sweden in February.
“It’s been really exciting and a long time since I was battling like this for a win. I really had to push to beat the guys around me.”
The highlight of the final day was the battle behind Ogier for second place. Mikkelsen held the position until today’s first stage, but he was steadily reeled in by the Hyundai i20 WRC pair of Sordo and Thierry Neuville as their superior speed told.
Sordo almost lost second position to his teammate on the final stage.
With only 4.1s separating all three drivers entering the 14.84km Power Stage, success would need to be earned.
Although Neuville topped the Power Stage times with a determined drive and scored an extra three championship points for his efforts, Sordo’s fourth-fastest time was enough to guarantee second place overall – by a margin of just 0.1s!
Neuville therefore claimed the final podium spot, while a disappointed Mikkelsen – who narrowly avoided a couple of Power Stage spins as he lost the brakes on his Polo R – had to settle for fourth.
Completing the top six and the list of World Rally Cars that survived the full distance, Kiwi Hayden Paddon was a further three minutes behind in his Hyundai, while Mads Østberg had a frustrating time guiding his Ford Fiesta RS to sixth place.
DMACK World Rally Team driver Ott Tänak retired on day two with an alternator- problem, while Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala and M-Sport World Rally Team driver Eric Camilli both retired on day one
All three drivers returned to action after overnight repairs. Tänak reached the finish in 23rd place, while Latvala scored two championship points with the second-fastest Power Stage time and finished 48th overall. Camilli was 50th.
Stéphane Lefebvre’s outing in his privately-entered DS 3 WRC ended on Saturday morning when he and co-driver Gabin Moreau crashed heavily on the 40km Panzerplatte Lang stage.
With Rally China on 8-11 September cancelled due to flood damage on the special stage roads, the WRC will break for almost six weeks until Rallye de France, starting in Corsica on 29 September.
RESULTS, ADAC Rallye Deutschland (WRC Rd 9 of 13):
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:00:26.7
2 D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +20.3
3 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +20.4
4 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +27.2
5 H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +3:34.8
6 M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:31.2
7 E. Lappi / J. Ferm (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:36.8
8 P. Tidemand / J. Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5) +8:52.5
9 J. Kopecky / P. Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:44.2
10 A. Kremer / P. Winklhofer (Škoda Fabia R5) +10:10.6
FIA World Rally Drivers’ Championship (after Rd 9):
1 S. Ogier 169 points
2 A. Mikkelsen 110
3 H. Paddon 94
4 T. Neuville 94
5 J. M. Latvala 89
6 D. Sordo 86
7 M. Østberg 78
8 O. Tanak 52
9 K. Meeke 51
10 C. Breen 25
FIA World Rally Manufacturers Championship (after Rd 9):
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 256 points
2 Hyundai Motorsport 201
3 M-Sport World Rally Team 122
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II 121
5 Hyundai Motorsport N 96
6 DMACK World Rally Team 64