Portugal WRC: Sebastien Ogier takes dominant victory for VW
|Sunday, April 6th 2014, 11:35 GMT|
Sebastien Ogier has claimed Volkswagen's eighth consecutive World Rally Championship victory after a dominant performance through the second half of the Rally of Portugal.
The reigning champion posted the quickest time on the rally-opener on the streets of Lisbon before the event properly kicked off in the Algarve.
He initially struggled during the opening loop of stages on Friday, acting as a road sweeper on the loose gravel stages for those behind him, and he eventually lost his grip on the event to Mikko Hirvonen at the end of the day.
But the Finn's spell at the top of the leaderboard was short lived, however, as Ogier reclaimed his overall lead following a couple of great runs through the first two tests on Saturday morning, before pulling clear in the afternoon with a hat-trick of stage wins.
The Polo R driver held a 38.1-second advantage going into the final day and it was an insurmountable gap for Hirvonen to overcome.
Ogier adopted a more cautious approach through the last leg and saved his best for the final powerstage, which he won to finish with a rally-winning margin of 43.2s in the process.
His victory means VW has drawn level with Citroen's record of eight consecutive WRC victories, a tally that stretches back to Australia last year.
Second place for Hirvonen is his first podium finish since returning to the M-Sport outfit and it was a case of what might have been for the Finn.
He only trailed Ogier by a slender 2.4s at the mid-day service interval on the penultimate day of the event, but a decision to run on the soft compound tyre backfired as his Michelins were almost down to the canvas by the end of it.
Mads Ostberg came home a distant third after he was promoted to the final spot on the rostrum when Ott Tanak rolled his Fiesta RS on Saturday morning.
The Estonian was one of a number of high profile casualties.
Robert Kubica, Elfyn Evans and Kris Meeke all crashed during the opening leg of the event, but perhaps the most notable was Jari-Matti Latvala who rolled out of contention having kept his VW team-mate Ogier honest before his mishap.
All bar Meeke returned on Saturday under Rally 2 rules, but Kubica eventually retired for good after a second crash - his 10th since his WRC class debut on last year's Rally GB.
Mikkelsen grabbed fourth when he emphatically beat Henning Solberg on the penultimate stage of the event.
The pair had already gained a place in the overall classification when Dani Sordo was forced to retire en route to the opening stage of the final day with a suspected broken drive shaft.
Leading positions after the end of the rally: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Sebastien Ogier VW 3h33m20.4s 2. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +43.2s 3. Mads Ostberg Citroen +1m12.4s 4. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +4m50.5s 5. Henning Solberg M-Sport Ford +5m10.2s 6. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +8m32.3s 7. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +8m51.6s 8. Juho Hanninen Hyundai +10m14.7s 9. Nasser Al-Attiyah M-Sport Ford +10m26.3s * 10. Jari Ketomaa Autotek Ford +10m36.3s *