SÉBASTIEN Ogier claimed his third FIA World Rally Championship event in four rounds with a faultless home win in Corsica on Sunday.
PHOTO: Sébastien Ogier (right) and co-driver Julien Ingrassia celebrate their faultless win at the end of the Tour de Corse (Jaanus Ree/Red Bull Media pic)
The Frenchman led the Corsica linea – Tour de Corse from start to finish to win the three-day asphalt challenge by 36.1sec in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta.
It was his second success on the Mediterranean island’s mountain roads and came 10 years after he secured the junior world title there.
After winning also in Monte-Carlo and Mexico, he heads the 2018 standings by 17 points in his quest for a sixth-straight drivers’ title.
[The 13-round WRC concludes with Kennards Hire Rally Australia on the NSW Coffs Coast on 15-18 November. Visit www.rallyaustralia.com.au.]
Ogier made his intentions clear by winning Friday morning’s opening stage of the demanding event known popularly as the Rally of 10,000 Corners. Three fastest times out of four earned him a lead of more than half a minute and afforded him the luxury of managing his pace across Saturday and Sunday.
“I’m very happy with our performance here. It was a great, great day on Friday and that’s where we built the platform for this win,” Ogier said.
“It’s never easy controlling your pace rather than driving flat out, but everything feels better and better in this car.”
Ott Tänak finished second in a Toyota Yaris. The Estonian restarted on Sunday with just a tenth of a second in hand over Thierry Neuville. He distanced the Belgian in the marathon 55km opening test and widened the gap to 31.4sec as Neuville encountered problems.
Neuville limped through the final test with engine troubles in his Hyundai i20 and was grateful to hold a large advantage over teammate Dani Sordo. He finished 55.1sec clear of the Spaniard.
Sordo and Elfyn Evans were never split by more than a handful of seconds all weekend. The Welshman had to settle for fifth in his Fiesta, a fine result as 2003 world champion co-driver Phil Mills replaced the injured Dan Barritt for his first WRC rally in almost eight years.
There was final day heartbreak for Esapekka Lappi. The Finn thrust himself into the fight for second after Saturday’s contest, but his hopes were shattered when he hit a kerb and stopped to change a punctured tyre. Ironically Neuville hit the same kerb but escaped.
Lappi plunged to seventh, but salvaged maximum bonus points by winning the final Power Stage in his Yaris as well as overhauling Andreas Mikkelsen to climb to sixth.
The championship returns to gravel roads for YPF Rally Argentina, which is based in Villa Carlos Paz, near Cordoba, on 6-9 April.
Rally France-Tour de Corse (WRC Rd 4 of 13):
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 3h26m52.7s
2 Ott Tänak/Martin Järveoja (Toyota Yaris WRC) +36.1s
3 Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1m07.5s
4 Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m02.6s
5 Elfyn Evans/Phil Mills (Ford Fiesta WRC) +2m06.1s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +2m33.5s
7 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +2m43.4s
8 Jan Kopecky/Pavel Dresler (Skoda Fabia R5) +10m34.8s
9 Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (Citroen C3 WRC) +10m40.5s
10 Yoann Bonato/Benjamin Boulloud (Citroen C3 R5) +12m26.0s
WRC Drivers’ Standings (after Rd 4):
1 S. Ogier 84
2 T. Neuville 67
3 O. Tanak 45
4 A. Mikkelsen 41
5 K. Meeke 36
6 E. Lappi 36
7 J-M Latvala 31
8 D. Sordo 30
9 C. Breen 20
10 E. Evans 18
11 S. Loeb 15
12 H. Paddon 10
WRC Manufacturers’ Standings (after Rd 4):
1 Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team 111
2 M-Sport Ford World Rally Team 107
3 Toyota Gazoo Racing World Rally Team 93
4 Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 81