WORLD Rally Champion Sebastien Ogier claimed his fourth Vodafone Rally de Portugal victory in five years and extended his lead in the 2014 drivers’ standings on Sunday.
The Frenchman won by 43.2sec in a Volkswagen Polo R from Mikko Hirvonen, of Finland, who took his best result this year in a Ford Fiesta RS.
Norway’s Mads Østberg finished third in a Citroen DS3, a further 29.2sec behind.
Ogier won the event’s final stage, the Power Stage, to take maximum bonus points and lead the championship by 29 points after four of 13 rounds.
The WRC continues at Rally Argentina on 8-11 May and returns to the New South Wales Coffs Coast for Coates Hire Rally Australia, Round 10, on 11-14 September.
The 2013 Rally Australia started an unbroken run of Volkswagen wins that reached eight in Portugal, matching the record set by Citroen in 2011.
“Portugal is a place I love to drive and now I have four wins from five starts in a World Rally Car here,” Ogier said after the finish on Sunday afternoon in the Algarve tourist region.
“I had a good battle with Mikko for a big part of the rally and I had good tyre management on every stage yesterday afternoon and that made the difference. To save my tyres, I didn’t push like crazy.”
Ogier opened the road on Friday’s first full day and limited his losses in conditions that constantly switched between dry and muddy. He took the lead on Saturday morning and was untouchable in the afternoon with a clean sweep of stage wins.
He made the most out of soft-compound tyres on drying roads, while Hirvonen couldn’t match the pace as his own soft rubber wore badly in the abrasive conditions.
Both Hirvonen and Østberg showed great consistency throughout, the latter climbing into a podium place when Estonian Ott Tänak crashed on Saturday after impressing in his Fiesta RS.
Andreas Mikkelsen started cautiously in his Volkswagen as he regained confidence after rolling in Mexico on the previous round. However, the Norwegian kept out of trouble, steadily increased his pace and overhauled countryman Henning Solberg on the final morning to take fourth.
Martin Prokop completed the top six, the Czech driver moving his Fiesta RS ahead of Thierry Neuville in the last stage.
The Belgian dropped more than 30sec with a broken driveshaft and a spin in his Hyundai i20, but left Portugal after he and Dani Sordo claimed their new team’s first WRC stage wins on Friday. Sordo also retired with a broken driveshaft, just a few hundred metres after leaving the service park on the final morning.
Juho Hänninen finished eighth in the third Hyundai after a string of punctures, while with WRC 2 drivers Nasser Al-Attiyah and Jari Ketomaa completed the top 10.
A string of crashes earlier in the rally sidelined Kris Meeke and Robert Kubica and put Rally Sweden winner Jari-Matti Latvala out of contention.