SÉBASTIEN Ogier won Thursday night’s short opening stage at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB to preserve an amazing five-year record.
Thursday evening’s curtainraiser was a short floodlit blast at Tir Prince trotting track and included a slalom section and two eye-catching jumps. After a high-speed lap around long and flowing bends of the oval horse racing track, the stage ended with a twisty section on adjoining roads.
Ogier has led every kilometre of the British round since the opening special stage of 2013. Victory at the 1.49km test at Tir Prince trotting track means he has now topped the GB leaderboard for 87 consecutive stages covering a remarkable 1258.64km.
The Frenchman, chasing a record fifth GB win and a fifth straight world title, completed the sweeping bends and jumps fastest in his Ford Fiesta by 0.4sec from Jari-Matti Latvala’s Toyota Yaris.
Thierry Neuville was third in a Hyundai i20, a tenth of a second further back, and a similar margin clear of Estonia’s Ott Tänak. A tying Andreas Mikkelsen and Elfyn Evans completed the top six, 1.1sec off Ogier’s lead pace.
Kris Meeke finished a lowly 15th, the winner of the previous round in Spain complaining his Citroën C3’s engine stalled mid-stage when he pulled the handbrake.
This penultimate round of the WRC season continues on Friday when the action begins in earnest in the forests of mid-Wales. Drivers face two loops of the Myherin, Sweet Lamb and Hafren stages covering 119.32km, with just a mid-leg tyre change to break the action.
End of Day 1 (Thursday):
1 Sebastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (Ford Fiesta WRC) 1m09.7s
2 Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (Toyota Yaris WRC) +0.4s
3 Ott Tanak/Martin Jarveoja (Ford Fiesta WRC) +0.6s
4 Elfyn Evans/Daniel Barritt (Ford Fiesta WRC) +1.1s
5 Andreas Mikkelsen/Anders Jaeger (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.1s
6 Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.2s
7 Dani Sordo/Marc Marti (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.2s
8 Juho Hänninen/Kaj Lindström (Toyota Yaris WRC) +1.3s
9 Craig Breen/Scott Martin (Citroen C3 WRC): +1.3s
10 Hayden Paddon/Seb Marshall (Hyundai i20 Coupe WRC) +1.6s