OGIER WINS THRILLING WRC FINLAND; 39 DAYS TO AUSTRALIA

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OGIER WINS THRILLING WRC FINLAND; 39 DAYS TO AUSTRALIA

Rally Finland 2013

 Sebastien Ogier literally flies to victory in WRC Finland (Volkswagen-Motorsport)

(WRC.com, 4/8/2013)  VOLKSWAGEN’S Sebastien Ogier has won a thrilling Neste Oil Rally Finland to claim his fifth success of the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship.

Victory on the blisteringly-fast event described as “Formula 1 on gravel” was the career 12th for Ogier, who brought his Volkswagen Polo R to the Jyvaskyla finish on Saturday afternoon with a 36.6sec advantage.

It stretched the Frenchman’s tally in the drivers championship to 181 points –almost double that of his nearest rival – with five rounds remaining, including Coates Hire Rally Australia on the New South Wales Coffs Coast, in 39 days’ time on 12-15 September.

Thierry Neuville took the runners-up spot for the second consecutive rally in a Ford Fiesta RS. The Belgian finished 21.0sec ahead of the similar car of Mads Ostberg after an enthralling duel decided only when Ostberg went off the road in the penultimate stage.

“I had a dream about winning here,” said Ogier, who became only the fifth non-Nordic driver to win the classic event.

“A lot of points for the championship and victory in Finland make it a perfect weekend.”

Huge crowds lined the roller-coaster forest roads of central Finland to watch the most exciting event of the season – and the many spectacular jumps over flat-out crests.

Four drivers led during the opening seven stages and just 11 seconds covered the quartet at the midpoint. However, Ogier built a comfortable lead on Friday afternoon with a string of stage wins as one-by-one his rivals encountered problems.

He had the luxury of measuring his pace through Saturday’s final leg, but still produced the necessary speed to smash the record for the classic Ouninpohja test.

Neuville and Ostberg were locked together all day. They started the second pass through Ouninpohja split by one-tenth of a second, but when Ostberg went off the road avoiding a huge rock, the battle was decided.

Neuville said: “We did a great job. Yesterday we lost time with a puncture but otherwise it was a smooth, clean run. Before the rally I couldn’t have imagined this result was possible.”

Third marked a change in fortune for Ostberg after a disappointing opening half of the season.

“We have been leading, we had a safe second and we ended up third. But it’s great to fight for the win again and rebuild my confidence because it was low after the first half of the season,” the Norwegian said.

Mikko Hirvonen, who also led during the first leg, was fourth in a Citroen DS3. His chances ended when he dropped time in torrential rain on Thursday evening and he was lucky to see the finish after twice almost rolling.

Kris Meeke was on course for fifth in another DS3 after a fine debut in the car, but the Briton rolled out in the penultimate test. There was also late disappointment for Jarkko Nikara, who retired his Mini John Cooper Works from sixth with a broken front right shock absorber.

All that allowed Dani Sordo to claim a distant fifth in a DS3 after what the Spaniard admitted had been a poor rally for him.

Russian Evgeny Novikov rounded off the top six in a Fiesta RS after crashing into a log pile on Friday.

Jari Ketomaa took seventh outright and victory in WRC2, achieving a successful debut for the new Fiesta R5, ahead of Sweden’s P-G Andersson.

The top 10 was completed by Robert Kubica, who also finished second in WRC 2 in a Citroen, and Andreas Mikkelsen, who rejoined on Saturday after losing a wheel on his Volkswagen on Friday.

New Zealander Hayden Paddon, a confirmed entrant for Rally Australia, completed the WRC2 podium in a Skoda Fabia S2000.

Irishman Keith Cronin survived a thrilling battle to win the WRC3 category over Sebastien Chardonnet and Jussi Vainionpaa. All three drivers were in Citroen DS3 R3T cars.

Coates Hire Rally Australia will start in 39 days. Tickets to see the WRC action at 30 points around the Coffs Coast course are on now sale at www.rallyaustralia.com.au.

The event also promises a packed entertainment program, based around the Brelsford Park Rally Hub in Coffs Harbour.

In additional to the nightly ARMOR ALL Super Special Stage, entertainment highlights will include –

  • Samantha Jade – 2012 X Factor winner, performing at the Rally Hub on Saturday night
  • Thunderstruck – AC/DC tribute band, performing at the Rally Hub on Friday night
  • The Red Bull Stunt Plane – Friday and Saturday over the Rally Hub and Sunday over the Flooded Gum Rally Village spectator point
  • The RAAF Roulettes stunt team – Friday and Saturday over the Rally Hub and Sunday over the Flooded Gum Rally Village spectator point
  • Freestyle motocross, featuring X Games gold medalist and Nitro Circus star Cam Sinclair – Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the Rally Hub
  • Skydivers over the Rally Hub
  • Live TV on a giant Screen at the Rally hub
  • The Cloud 9 Ultimate Destination premium viewing facility
  • Audi quattro S1 and MG Metro 6R4 Group B Rally car demonstration, Rally Hub

Entries also are now open for cars contesting the WRC, East Coast Bullbars Australian Rally Championship, Classic Rally Challenge and Side-by-Side Challenge.

Rally Australia also will host a round of the Australian Off Road Championship over a separate course on 14-15 September.

Positions for volunteer officials are still available by registering at www.rallyaustralia.com.au.

RESULTS, Neste Oil Rally Finland (WRC Rd 8)

1  S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Volkswagen) Total time 2hr 43min 10.4sec

2  T. Neuville/N Gilsoul (Ford) Gap to first +36.6 sec.

3  M Ostberg/J Andersson (Ford) +57.6

4  M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Citroen) +1:21.6

5  D Sordo/C Del Barrio (Citroen) +6:08.5

6  E Novikov/I Minor (Ford) +8:39.7

7  J Ketomaa/M Sallinen (Ford WRC2) +11:19.2

8  P Andersson/E Axelsson (Ford) +11:41.5

9  R Kubica/M Baran (Citroen, WRC2) +12:48.1

10 A Mikkelsen/M Markkula (Volkswagen) +13:42.0

Driver standings (after Rd 8)

1  S Ogier 181

2  J-M Latvala 91

5  T Neuville 91

4  M Hirvonen 73

5  Do Sordo 69

Manufacturers standings (after Rd 8)

1 Volkswagen Motorsport 251

2  Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 196

3  Qatar M-Sport 112

4  Qatar WRT 107

5  Jipocar Czech 39