PHOTO: Sebastien Ogier puts the power down in his Volkswagen Polo R on the way to his 29th WRC victory (WRC. com pic)
VOLKSWAGEN’S Sebastien Ogier moved closer to a third straight FIA World Rally Championship with his fifth win of the season at 72nd Lotos Rally Poland today.
The Frenchman led the seventh round of the series from Friday afternoon, holding off Volkswagen Polo R teammate Andreas Mikkelsen to win by 11.9 sec after almost 300km of furious competition in high temperatures in north-east Poland.
Ott Tänak matched his career-best result in claiming third place in a Ford Fiesta RS, his position beyond doubt after Jari-Matti Lavala put his Volkswagen into a tree on the final stage.
Ogier narrowly beat Tänak on the final live-TV Power Stage to claim three bonus points and now leads the 13-round series with almost twice the points of his nearest rival, Mikkelsen.
The WRC heads off for its summer break until the iconic Neste Oil Rally Finland at the end of the month. Rally Germany follows three weeks later and then the WRC circus heads Down Under for Coates Hire Rally Australia on 10-13 September.
Sunday’s competition in north-east Poland comprised just one stage run twice. Ogier had led overnight by just 5.6 sec, but was faultless today in stretching the lead over his young Norwegian teammate Mikkelsen.
“I have had so many great wins, but no-one wanted to help me on this one,” said a delighted Ogier, referring to the fact the regulations forced him as championship leader to run first on the roads and sweep the loose gravel for his rivals’ advantage.
Despite this, he won eight of the 18 stages on the way to clinching his 29th WRC career victory.
“I was first on the road for 90 percent of the rally and I have 28 points again. We had to push from the first metre to the last one and I enjoyed that.
“Julien (Ingrassia, co-driver) and I really produced a perfect performance. The many fans and sensationally fast stages made this rally a fantastic event.”
Tänak won six special stages and defended a 1.5 sec overnight lead over Latvala. “I pushed like crazy and I am so happy,“ he said.
Under-pressure to catch the young Estonian, Latvala ran wide on a left-hand corner and hit a tree on the final stage. Despite a holed radiator and significant body damage, he managed to reach the final control point and claim fourth spot.
Hayden Paddon was the quickest and most consistent of the four Hyundai drivers and, when teammate Belgian Thierry Neuville rolled on the first stage of the morning and damaged his i20 WRC, the challenge for the Kiwi’s fifth place had gone. Neuville regrouped to finish sixth.
Flying Finn Esapekka Lappi took a comfortable WRC2 victory in the new-generation Skoda Fabia R5.
Australian champion Scott Pedder had the best result of his new WRC2 career, finish 12th in his Ford Fiesta R5 out of 27 original starters.
RESULTS, LOTOS 72nd Rally Poland (Rd 7 of 13, provisional):
1 S Ogier/J Ingrassia (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) Total time 2hr26min11.5sec
2 A Mikkelsen/O Floene (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) behind first + 11.9sec
3 O Tänak/R Molder (Ford Fiesta RS) +23.0
4 J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Volkswagen Polo R WRC) +44.7
5 H Paddon/J Kennard (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:14.6
6 T Neuville/N Gilsoul (Hyundai i20 WRC) +1:44.5
7 K Meeke/P Nagle (Citroen DS3 WRC) +1:57.7
8 R Kubica/M Szczepaniak (Ford Fiesta RS) +2:08.3
9 M Østberg/J Andersson (Citroën DS3 WRC) +2:18.2
10 D Sordo/M Marti (Hyundai i20 WRC) +2:48.4
FIA Drivers’ standings (after Rd 7):
S Ogier 161 points
A Mikkelsen 83
M Østberg 69
J-M Latvala 68
T Neuville 58
K Meeke 53
E Evans 53
H Paddon 42
O Tänak 40
D Sordo 39
FIA Manufacturers’ standings (after Rd 7):
Volkswagen Motorsport 216 points
Citroën Total Abu Dhabi World Rally Team 125
Hyundai Motorsport 123
M-Sport World Rally Team 114
Volkswagen Motorsport II 49
Neste Oil Rally Finland 30 July-2 August