(Event release, 26/8/2013)FRENCHMAN Sebastien Ogier could clinch the FIA World Rally Championship for drivers at Coates Hire Rally Australia next month, following an epic ADAC Rallye Deutschland at the weekend.
The rally was won by Citroen driver Dani Sordo, but Ogier retains a huge lead in the drivers standings despite finishing only 17th on the home event for his Volkswagen Motorsport team.
Volkswagen says if Ogier can manage to extend his lead to 84 points or more after the next round in Australia, he can no longer be caught in the chase for the title.
Coates Hire Rally Australia, Round 10 if the WRC, will be staged on the New South Wales Coffs Coast on 12-15 September. Thirty cars have been entered to contest the WRC section of the event.
Sordo’s victory was his first in the WRC after 34 podiums from 106 starts and almost 10 years of trying.
The 30-year-old came good to beat Thierry Neuville by 53sec in a last-stage showdown that was settled only when the Belgian went off the road 3km from the finish.
Sordo, the 2005 junior world champion, started the final Dhrontal test in the narrow and twisty Mosel vineyards with a 3.0sec advantage in his Citroen DS3, but it had been just 0.8sec at the start of the day.
He stretched his advantage in the early part of the 24.58km stage, before Neuville fought back. The duo was tied at the final split point with just over 4km remaining, but Neuville’s hopes of his own maiden victory were dashed when his Ford Fiesta RS went off the road.
“It’s a great moment for me,” an emotional Sordo said as he embraced his parents at the stop line.
“Thierry was pushing so hard. He was a little slower than me at first but then he was faster so I needed to push harder. I was so nervous at the start but this win is something I’ve dreamed of for many years.”
After the demise of early leader Ogier, who broke his Volkswagen Polo R’s suspension in a crash early in the second leg, team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala led with Sordo and Neuville dueling behind.
Neuville had the better of Friday’s second leg to build a 19.0sec advantage. But the roles were reversed on Saturday and when Latvala crashed, Sordo ended the penultimate day with a lead of just 0.8sec to set up a thrilling finale.
Sordo’s victory, after four-days and 371.86km of asphalt action in the vineyards and military roads of south-west Germany, means Citroen maintained its unblemished record there, having won every year since the rally entered the championship in 2002.
Second for Neuville, in his first full WRC season, extended a superb run of results which netted two seconds and a third before this event.
“I feel we proved a lot again, even if we did ultimately just miss out on the win,” said Neuville.
“I decided we were going to go for it on the final stage, but coming out of the forest, I mistook one fast left-hand corner in the vineyards for another and we went off.
“By the time Nico (Gilsoul, co-driver) announced the pace note, it was already too late. Luckily we were able to rejoin the road and make it to the finish,” he added.
Mikko Hirvonen finished third in another DS3, 1min 43.1sec behind Neuville, to seal a strong weekend for Citroen.
The Finn, for whom asphalt is his least favourite surface said: “It was a solid weekend. At the start I was happy with my pace and when I couldn’t keep up I eased off to secure my position.”
Martin Prokop matched his career-best result in fourth in a Fiesta RS. The Czech driver was 8min 00.8sec behind Sordo, but kept out of trouble as many more-fancied runners went off the road.
WRC 2 winner Robert Kubica and second-placed Elfyn Evans completed the top six, in a Citroen DS3 RRC and Ford Fiesta R5 respectively.
Latvala recovered from his crash to take seventh, having led an asphalt rally for the first time, with New Zealander Hayden Paddon’s WRC 2 Skoda Fabia S2000 eighth.
Mads Ostberg was ninth in a Fiesta RS after crashing out of fifth on rain-soaked roads on Saturday afternoon. The top 10 was completed by team-mate Evgeny Novikov, who recovered from a crash after only a handful of kilometres on Thursday evening.
Ogier salvaged three points by winning the final Power Stage. The Frenchman holds a 75-point lead in the drivers’ standings over Neuville. Latvala is third, 11 points behind..
Ogier had a mathematical chance of putting the title beyond reach in Germany, but his crash ended that hope.
“I’m now looking forward to Australia and Julien (co-driver Ingrassia) and I will be trying to edge ever closer to that World Championship title,” he said.
RESULTS, ADAC Rallye Deutschland (WRC Rd 9)
1 D Sordo/C Del Barrio (Citroen) 3h 15m 19.4s
2 T. Neuville/N Gilsoul (Ford) Gap to first +53.0s.
3 M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen (Citroen) +2:36.1
4 M Prokop/MErnst (Ford) +8:00.8
5 R Kubica/M Baran (Citroen) +9:01.3
6 E Evans/D Barritt (Ford) +9:14.2
7 J-M Latvala/M Anttila (Volkswagen) +9:55.0
8 H Paddon/J Kennard (Skoda) +13:01.2s
9 M Ostberg/J Andersson (Ford) +13:28.1
10 E Novikov/I Minor (Ford) +15:17.9
Driver standings (after Rd 9)
1 S Ogier 184
2 T Neuville 109
3 J-M Latvala 98
4 Dani Sordo 96
5 M Hirvonen 88
Manufacturers standings (after Rd 9)
1 Volkswagen Motorsport 262
2 Citroen Total Abu Dhabi WRT 236
3 Qatar WRT 127
4 Qatar M-Sport 126
5 Jipocar Czech 51