Rally Sweden: Sebastien Ogier claims first win for new VW team
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, February 10th 2013, 13:44 GMT|
Sebastien Ogier clinched the Volkswagen Polo R's first World Rally Championship victory as he broke Sebastien Loeb's challenge on the final day in Sweden.
The VW driver insisted he was managing the gap and had more speed in hand.
He proved that on the first stage after Sunday's mid-morning regroup, outpacing Loeb's Citroen by three seconds on the short Kirkener then vaulting 35.8s clear when Loeb made a mistake on the following Finnskogen stage.
Winning the power stage as well gave Ogier a 41s victory margin, a maximum 28-point score and the championship lead.
Having spent 2012 in a Super 2000 Skoda while VW prepared its World Rally Car, Ogier's Sweden win was his first triumph since the 2011 Rally of France 17 months ago.
The result was also only the second time a non-Scandinavian driver had won Rally Sweden, following Loeb's 2004 triumph. The French one-two meant this was the worst result for Scandinavians in the event's history.
Mads Ostberg was top 'home' driver (several stages running in his native Norway) in third. He looked quick enough to fight for victory on Friday morning as he recovered from a penalty for delays incurred while fixing an overheating problem on his Qatar M-Sport Ford.
But after briefly challenging Loeb, Ostberg became embroiled in a long battle with the second VW of Jari-Matti Latvala for third. Latvala had been second for a spell, before ending up six seconds behind Ostberg in fourth.
Evgeny Novikov looked set for a comfortable fifth place until he rolled and lost 10 minutes with three stages to go.
That handed the final top six spots to his Qatar M-Sport team-mates Thierry Neuville and Juho Hanninen, the latter another man to spend some time off the road.
Loeb will not now reappear until Argentina in May, leaving Citroen's title challenge in the hands of Mikko Hirvonen and Dani Sordo.
Both made mistakes in Sweden. Hirvonen went off on the first full-length stage and was consigned to a 17th-place finish. Sordo crashed on both Friday and Sunday, the latter error ending his rally.
Novikov and Sordo's late incidents plus returnee Henning Solberg's Sunday morning alternator delay elevated Martin Prokop to seventh, ahead of Solberg and Novikov.
At the foot of the top 10, Saudi Arabian driver Yazeed Al Rahji took a surprise WRC2 win on the snow after a long dice with Anders Grondal, whose Production Subaru was no match for Al Rahji's RRC Ford.
Leading finishers after SS22: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier VW 3h11m41.9s 2. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 41.8s 3. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport Ford + 1m24.5s 4. Jari-Matti Latvala VW + 1m30.6s 5. Thierry Neuville Qatar M-Sport Ford + 5m06.4s 6. Juho Hanninen Qatar M-Sport Ford + 5m43.1s 7. Martin Prokop Czech Ford + 11m25.4s 8. Henning Solberg M-Sport Ford + 11m42.7s 9. Evgeny Novikov Qatar M-Sport Ford + 13m04.7s 10. Yazeed Al Rahji Yazeed Ford + 16m27.0s Other WRC finishers: 14. Michal Kosciuszko Italia Mini + 25m08.9s 17. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 31m19.0s 25. Jarkko Nikara Prodrive Mini + 53m45.1s 27. Matthew Wilson Qatar M-Sport Ford + 55m47.3s WRC retirements: Dani Sordo Citroen SS20 Jari Ketomaa Autotek Ford SS16 Khalid Al-Qassimi Abu Dhabi Citroen SS16 Pontus Tidemand PTM Ford SS9 Leading power stage results: 1. Sebastien Ogier VW 9m54.1s 2. Jari-Matti Latvala VW + 1.0s 3. Mads Ostberg Qatar M-Sport Ford + 3.2s 4. Mikko Hirvonen Citroen + 5.0s 5. Sebastien Loeb Citroen + 6.4s