Sebastien Ogier has claimed the first World Championship rally victory for Volkswagen Motorsport following a faultless performance on Rally Sweden.
The Frenchman secured a maiden win for Volkswagen’s new Polo R World Rally Car on only the German manufacturer’s second event, three weeks after finishing runner-up on Rallye Monte-Carlo.
Ogier dominated the snow and ice event after snatching the lead from nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb on Friday morning. He ended the rally with a flourish, going fastest through the final Power Stage to bag three extra drivers’ championship points and beat Loeb’s Citroen DS3 by a margin of 41.8 seconds.
The victory for Ogier is the eighth at World Championship level for put him in the lead of the drivers’ standings.
Ogier was quick to pay tribute to his team. “I must thank them because they have given me a perfect car all weekend. I’ve never had a car like that. Unbelievable,” he said.
“The win here was amazing but also a big surprise. We have spent so much time and effort with the team in preparation – all of last year – but we never expected to have this performance so soon.
“It couldn’t be better. This morning Sebastien (Loeb) was putting a lot of pressure on. He was flying into the stages. We tried to follow him without maximum risk but we had to push because he was so fast. To win like that is amazing,” he added.
Loeb made it a French one-two but was left ruing a poor result on the pre-rally Qualifying Stage on Thursday that determined the early running order.
“We lost a lot because of that I think,” said Loeb.
“We didn’t get a good road position, then we changed the car set-up to try and improve things but that led to two mistakes on the first day and the loss of about 30-seconds. Okay, Sebastien Ogier didn’t make any mistakes. He has done the perfect rally. There was nothing more I could do.”
Mads Ostberg equalled his 2012 Sweden result with third, 42.7sec behind Loeb. The Norwegian’s rally looked to be over on Friday morning when the fluid in his Fiesta’s cooling system drained into the snow. But the 25-year-old survived the scare and went on to beat Latvala in a tense battle for third.
“I understood quite early that a win wasn’t going to be possible, and since then it’s been a big fight for third,” said Ostberg.
“It’s been a very up and down rally but I’m pleased to have won the fight with Jari-Matti (Latvala). It’s a great feeling.”
After crashing out of Rallye Monte-Carlo, Latvala scored his first points of the year for fourth, a slender 6.1sec adrift of Ostberg. A two-time winner of Rally Sweden, Latvala endured a difficult event as he struggled to get comfortable with the handling of his Polo R.
Dani Sordo failed to finish what had been a tough rally for the Spaniard, after he crashed into a snow bank on the final stages.
RESULTS: Rally Sweden
|3||Mads Ostberg||Qatar M-Sport Ford||+1:24.5|
|5||Thierry Neuville||Qatar M-Sport Ford||+5:06.4|
|6||Juho Hanninen||Qatar M-Sport Ford||+5:43.1|
|7||Martin Prokop||Czech Ford||+11:25.4|
|8||Henning Solberg||M-Sport Ford||+11:42.7|
|9||Evgeny Novikov||Qatar M-Sport Ford||+13:04.7|
|10||Yazeed Al Rahji||Yazeed Ford||+16:27.0|
|3||Mads Ostberg||Qatar M-Sport Ford||24|
|3||Qatar M-Sport Ford||31|
|4||Abu Dhabi Citroen||15|
|5||Lotos WRC Team Mini||12|
|7||Jipocar Czech Team||8|
Video highlights from the morning stages
Video highlights from the afternoon stages