PHOTO (Click to download): Spectators score an ultra-close shot of the action as Sebastien Ogier races through a Corsican village on the Tour de Corse (Volkswagen pic)
FRENCH driver Sébastien Ogier is a step closer to a fourth straight FIA World Rally Championship after winning his home round on the island of Corsica on Sunday.
Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia led the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse – the WRC 10th round – from start to finish in their Volkswagen Polo R WRC, completing the tortuous “Rally of 10,000 Corners” with a margin of 46.4 seconds over Hyundai driver Thierry Neuville of Belgium.
Ogier’s teammate Andreas Mikkelsen, from Norway, finished third and a further 23.6sec behind.
Ogier started the 390km tarmac event with a theoretical chance of winning the driver’s title, but fell short because rivals Mikkelsen and Neuville earned enough points to stay in the chase.
However, he extended his lead in the standings and will have a better chance at the next round in Spain on 13-16 October, when he will need only third outright and one bonus point in the Power Stage to put the title beyond reach.
With Wales Rally Great Britain on 27-30 October also available to deliver points should it be needed, it’s likely Ogier, Ingrassia and Volkswagen Motorsport will be World Champions again by the time they arrive for the season’s closing round, Kennards Hire Rally Australia, on the Coffs Coast on 18-20 November.
After winning every stage on Friday’s opening leg, Ogier drove with a cool head to keep the lead and manage the conditions, including rain, that made correct tyre selection essential. He won five of the rally’s 10 stages.
It was a typically dominant performance by the 32-year-old former ski instructor, who has now been responsible for 29 of Volkswagen’s 40 victories since it returned to the WRC with the 2013 season.
“What we really wanted this weekend was to get the win at our home rally. It is the first time that Julien and I have won a WRC event on Corsica and it feels fantastic,” Ogier said.
“We had a strong start on Friday and were able to manage the lead on Saturday and Sunday. It went perfectly.
“The chances of being able to celebrate the championship title here were only really theoretical, but now we have a real possibility of clinching it in Spain. It’s fantastic and naturally we will turn all of our attention to that now.”
Kris Meeke won the rally-closing Power Stage and three bonus championship points, but was out of contention for the rally after hitting a tree and retiring yesterday. Mikkelsen took two points for second while Ogier secured the final point.
Fourth overall in the rally went to Ogier’s other teammate Jari-Matti Latvala, who said he was disappointed with his own performance as well as his Volkswagen’s.
Irishman Craig Breen was the highest-placed Citroen driver, in fifth, followed by Hayden Paddon and Dani Sordo in Hyundais and M-Sport Ford drivers Eric Camilli and Mads Østberg.
Driving an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R5, Welshman Elfyn Evans was 10th but also won the fiercely-contested WRC2 category and maintained his lead in the second-tier championship.
RESULTS, Tour de Corse-Rallye de France (WRC Rd 10 of 13):
1 S. Ogier / J. Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) 4:07:17.0
2 T. Neuville / N. Gilsoul (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +46.4
3 A. Mikkelsen / A. Jaeger (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:10.0
4 J-M Latvala / M. Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +1:35.6
5 C. Breen / S. Martin (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:18.6
6 H. Paddon / J. Kennard (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +2:36.1
7 D. Sordo / M. Martí (Hyundai New Generation i20 WRC) +3:06.9
8 E. Camilli / B. Veillas (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +4:53.9
9 M. Østberg / O. Floene (Ford Fiesta RS WRC) +5:37.7
10 E. Evans / C. Parry (Ford Fiesta R5) +6:26.6
FIA WRC Drivers’ Standings (after Rd 10):
1 S. Ogier 195 points
2 A. Mikkelsen 127
3 T. Neuville 112
4 H. Paddon 102
5 J-M. Latvala 101
6 D. Sordo 92
7 M. Østberg 80
8 K. Meeke 54
9 O. Tanak 53
10 C. Breen 35
FIA WRC Manufacturers Standings (after Rd 10):
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 293 points
2 Hyundai Motorsport 227
3 Volkswagen Motorsport II 136
4 M-Sport World Rally Team 132
5 Hyundai Motorsport N 106
6 DMACK World Rally Team 66
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