PHOTO: Crews celebrate on the final WRC podium for 2013 at Wales Rally GB (Volkswagen photo)
(18/11/2013) SEBASTIEN Ogier has rounded off a dominant debut season for Volkswagen in the FIA World Rally Championship with victory in the final round, Wales Rally GB.
It was the ninth win of the year for the Frenchman and his Volkswagen Polo R and his fourth straight since Coates Hire Rally Australia in September.
In the style that secured his maiden drivers world championship, the co-driver title for Julien Ingrassia and helped win the manufacturers trophy for Volkswagen, Ogier led all the way from the start on Thursday to the Sunday finish in Llandudno.
He controlled his pace perfectly on the slippery forest roads of mid- and north Wales, fending off a sustained attack from teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, a two-time Rally GB winner. Thierry Neuville finished third for Ford and secured his championship second place.
Ogier said he was delighted to have eclipsed his previous best in Wales of a lowly 11th in 2011.
“I came here knowing this rally was not the best for me in the past and even with that we managed to win a battle with a teammate who feels at home here,” he said.
“It was another great victory for us and the end of a perfect season. It’s going to be a hard challenge to do better next year.”
Debuting its new team, new cars and new drivers, Volkswagen won 10 of the 13 rounds and a clean sweep of major titles in 2013, after nine years of Citroen dominance.
But it will be back to where it started in barely eight weeks for the launch of season 2014 at Rallye Monte-Carlo and fresh challenges in the form of the new Hyundai factory team and numerous changed driver lineups.
And while most global motorsport series are in winter hibernation, the WRC will embrace the changing seasonal conditions as part of its unique challenge.
Snow and ice will greet Monte competitors on 14-19 January before they progress through more snow, high altitude and other variations of weather and terrain around the world to arrive on the New South Wales Coffs Coast for Round 10, Rally Australia on 11-14 September.
Latvala finished Wales Rally GB 21.8sec behind Ogier. The Finn had an inconsistent rally that featured stage-winning highs as well as frustrating lows when he couldn’t find a confident feeling at the wheel.
A final-day push for the lead started well, with Latvala narrowing the gap to just 19.5sec after the two opening stages. But a stall at a road junction cost him six seconds and ended the charge.
“I’m disappointed because I won this rally in 2011 and 2012 and I was hungry for the third victory, but it didn’t work out this year.” Latvala said.
Belgium’s Thierry Neuville was third, 1m 02.7s further back, to round off a remarkable season with the Qatar World Rally Team and secure second spot in the drivers championship – a reward also for his Ford bosses before he departs to lead the Hyundai team next season.
“I’m really, really happy with that. It’s a result we couldn’t have imagined at the beginning of the season with a new car and new team,” said Neuville, who bagged three bonus points by winning Sunday’s Power Stage in his Ford Fiesta RS.
Dani Sordo in seventh was the sole factory Citroen finisher, having dropped out of contention before the start with a five-minute penalty.
Rollovers brought the demise of Citroen’s Mikko Hirvonen and Robert Kubica and a disappointing end to the French’s squad’s lowest season in years. Sordo scored the only win for a regular driver, in Germany, although the legendary Sebastien Loeb managed two more in his part-time retirement year.
Australian Molly Taylor, the new European ladies’ champion, dealt with turbocharger and throttle problems and a rollover in her privateer Citroen DS3 R3 to finish 23rd in her only WRC event this season.
Taylor, 25, notched up several personal bests, including fourth in the highly-competitive two-wheel-drive class and third privateer. As highest-placed non-priority crew, she won the prestigious Richard Burns Trophy and co-driver Seb Marshall the Michael Park Trophy.
RESULTS, Wales Rally GB (WRC Rd 13)
1. S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R).
2 J Latvala./M Anttila (Volkswagen) Gap to winner +21.8 sec
3 T Neuville/N Gilsoul (Ford) +1:24.5
4 M Ostberg/J Andersson (Ford) +1:48.2
5 A Mikkelsen/M Markkula (Volkswagen) +2:03.4
6 M Prokop/M Ernst (Ford) +7:37.5
7 D Sordo/C Del Barrio (Citroen) +8:26.9
8 E Evans/D Barritt (Ford Fiesta RS) +11:13.1
9 J Ketomaa/T Suominen (Ford) +12:16.2
10 M Higgins/C Williamson (Ford) +13:21.0
Driver standings (after Rd 13, final)
1 Sebastien Ogier 290
2 Thjierry Neuville 176
3 Jari-Matti Latvala 162
4 Mikko Hirvonen 126
5 Dani Sordo 123
6 Mads Ostberg 102
7 Evgeny Novikov 69
8 Sebastien Loeb 68
9 Martin Prokop 63
10 Andreas Mikkelsen 50
Co-driver standings (after Rd 13, final)
1 Julien Ingrassia 290
2 Nicolas Gilsoul 176
3 Miikka Anttila 162
4 Jarmo Lehtinen 126
5 Carlos Del Barrio 123
6 Jonas Andersson 102
7 Ilka Minor 69
8 Daniel Elena 68
9 Michal Ernst 63
10 Giovanni Bernacchini 38
Manufacturer standings (after Rd 13, final)
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 425
2 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 280
3 Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team 190
4 Qatar World Rally Team 184
5 Jipocar Czech National Team 65
6 Abu Dhabi Citroen Total World Rally Team 63
7 Volkswagen Motorsport 2 50
8 Lotos WRC Team 20