PHOTO: Polo R WRC chassis 21, the winning car from Coates Hire Rally Australia, takes a fresh set of roof dents as Julien Ingrassia (left) and Sebastien Ogier celebrate their second straight WRC crowns in Spain (Volkswagen pic).
SÉBASTIEN Ogier secured a second straight FIA World Rally Championship by winning Rally de Espana yesterday.
The Frenchman took victory by 11.3sec in a Volkswagen Polo R from teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, the only driver who had a chance of beating him to the crown.
Mikko Hirvonen scored third place for the M-Sport Ford team.
With Ogier’s co-driver Julien Ingrassia also winning his second championship, the result in Spain completed a clean sweep of 2014 titles for Volkswagen Motorsport, which had wrapped up the World Rally Championship for Manufacturers’ at Coates Hire Rally Australia last month.
Ogier became the eighth driver to score more than one championship and did so with one round remaining. He has won seven of the 12 rounds so far this year and finished second twice, with a total career tally of 23 WRC round wins.
The Polo R WRC used in Spain, chassis 21, was the same one driven to victory in Australia. After the trophy presentation in Salou, a coastal resort south of Barcelona, it again left the podium with the roof dented heavily by the dancing, celebrating winners.
Ogier built a comfortable lead on the first full day of the mixed-surface event. On Friday night, teams had just 75 minutes to change their cars from gravel to tarmac specification – a task in Volkswagen’s case involving more than 4000 different parts across its three entries for Ogier, Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.
Latvala, who was disappointed with his speed on the gravel leg, attacked hard during the final two days on asphalt but an unflustered Ogier measured his pace perfectly.
His only scare came on Saturday afternoon when he drove 20km with a damaged tyre, fearful he would have to stop and replace it.
“It’s a great achievement to win one title but even better to take a second,” Ogier said after embracing his parents at the finish of the final stage.
“It’s a confirmation and proves the first title was not a one-off.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend, but it was tough. I pushed so hard on leg one and it was a long two days on tarmac where I had to watch Jari-Matti flying.”
Ogier’s round victory was the 23rd of his career and Volkswagen’s 11th of the season, equaling the record set by Citroen in 2005 and 2008.
Mikko Hirvonen’s third place in a Ford Fiesta RS was his second podium of the year, the Finn too strong on asphalt for Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen.
He finished 1min 42.2sec behind Ogier and 31.1sec ahead of Østberg. A Saturday afternoon puncture ended Mikkelsen’s hopes.
Dani Sordo in a Hyundai i20 closed on Østberg throughout the final leg but the Spaniard fell 8.9sec short in fifth. A first-leg error when co-driver Marc Marti miscalculated a stage start time proved costly.
Mikkelsen passed Thierry Neuville for sixth in the penultimate stage. However, he earned a 10sec penalty after a timing error at the start of the final test and dropped behind again.
Martin Prokop, Hayden Paddon and Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the top 10, Al-Attiyah inheriting the final spot when Ken Block punctured a front left tyre in the final stage.
Unseasonably high temperatures ensured tough conditions for tyres and brakes during the 17 stages, which covered 139km on gravel and 234km on asphalt in the Tarragona region.
The final round, Wales Rally GB, is based at Deeside on 13-16 Novembe