PHOTO: Sébastien Ogier (right) and co-driver Julien Ingrassia celebrate their fourth FIA World Rally Championships in Spain (Volkswagen pic)
FRENCH driver Sébastien Ogier secured his fourth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title by winning RACC Catalunya-Rally de España on Sunday.
He became the fourth driver to claim a quartet of titles after overcoming local hero Dani Sordo to win the only mixed-surface event of the season by 15.6sec in a Volkswagen Polo R. Thierry Neuville of Belgium claimed the final podium place, a further 59.4sec behind.
Ogier’s fifth win of the year put the drivers’ title beyond doubt, while co-driver Julien Ingrassia also secured his fourth world championship.
But the fight for second and third in the drivers’ series was blown open in Spain and Volkswagen must wait to secure its fourth manufacturers’ championship until Dayinsure Wales Rally Great Britain at the end of this month or Kennards Hire Rally Australia in 30 days’ time on 17-20 November.
For the first time at its New South Wales Coffs Coast base, Rally Australia will close the WRC season. Tickets on sale from www.rallyaustralia.com.au and Ticketek.com include a limited 2-for-1 offer on entry to the new Destination NSW Super Special Stage on the Coffs Harbour waterfront.
Spanish ace Sordo led his home event in a Hyundai i20 after Friday’s muddy opening leg in the hills above the Costa Daurada, near Salou. Ogier came into his own when the surface switched to asphalt from Saturday, taking a string of stage wins to move into the lead.
PHOTO (click to download): Ogier took command when the surface switched from gravel to tarmac in Spain (Volkswagen pic)
He sealed the win and the championship on the same piece of road on which he crashed out of the lead 12 months ago when just a few kilometres from victory.
“It’s fantastic to take the championship two rallies before the end of the season, I couldn’t do much more,” said Ogier, who secured his third title at Rally Australia last year.
“The fourth world championship title for Julien and me, it is impossible to describe how this feels.
“The tension ahead of the closing Power Stage was obviously greater than usual, given the fact that we were within touching distance of the title, and bearing in mind the mistake we made last year. But we’ve done it.”
The 32-year-old former ski instructor and professional boules player joins countryman Sébastien Loeb and Finns Juha Kankkunen and Tommi Mäkinen as an all-time great of the WRC, which has been running since 1977. Rally de Espańa was his 30th win from 50 starts with Volkswagen since 2013.
Sordo’s teammate Neuville moved level with Andreas Mikkelsen in second place in the championship after completing the podium. The Belgian battled cornering problems with his car, but was secure in third after Mikkelsen rolled his Volkswagen heavily on Saturday afternoon.
Hayden Paddon completed a strong weekend for Hyundai in fourth, 12.8sec behind Neuville. The Kiwi can also secure second in the standings with the final two rounds in Britain and Australia on his favoured dirt roads.
Results, RACCCatalunya-Rally de España (Rd 11 of 13):
S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 3:13:03.6
D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +15.6
T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:15.0
H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +1:27.8
M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +3:24.4
O. Tanak / R. Molder (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:24.9
K. Abbring / S. Marshall (Hyundai i20 WRC) +7:31.3
J. Kopecky / P. Dresler (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:05.1
P. Tidemand / J. Andersson (Škoda Fabia R5) +9:20.4
C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +9:57.1
FIA WRC for Drivers:
S. Ogier 222 points
A. Mikkelsen 127
T. Neuville 127
H. Paddon 114
D. Sordo 111
J. M. Latvala 104
M. Østberg 90
O. Tanak 61
K. Meeke 54
C. Breen 36
FIA WRC for Manufacturers:
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 322 points
2 Hyundai Motorsport 260
3 M-Sport World Rally Team 144
4 Volkswagen Motorsport II 136
5 Hyundai Motorsport N 124
6 DMACK World Rally Team 74