SS20 Wedding Bells II (Power Stage & TV) (9.23 km)
Sébastien Ogier led Volkswagen’s first podium clean sweep at Coates Hire Rally Australia as the German squad secured its second consecutive FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ crown.
The Frenchman held off team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala in a tense final leg to win the three-day gravel event, round nine of 13, by 6.8sec in a Polo R. Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium lockout in third, a further 1min 11.2sec behind.
Latvala won the rally-closing live TV Power Stage to take maximum bonus points. Ogier claimed two points for second with Kris Meeke taking one in a Citroen DS3.
Sebastien Ogier led Volkswagen’s first podium clean sweep at Coates Hire Rally Australia as the German squad secured its second consecutive FIA World Rally Championship manufacturers’ title.
The Frenchman held off Jari-Matti Latvala in a tense final leg to win the three-day gravel event in New South Wales by 6.8sec in a Polo R. Andreas Mikkelsen completed the podium lockout in third, a further 1min 11.2sec behind.
Ogier’s 22nd career win, and his sixth of the season, moved him closer to a second consecutive drivers’ title. He leads Latvala by 50 points with three rounds remaining and could secure the crown at his home rally next month.
Volkswagen’s dominance was emphasised by the fact that the manufacturers’ title has not been decided so early in the season since 1989.
Ogier acknowledged his victory was not achieved with the same dominance as his 2013 win.
“This year it wasn’t possible to have that. Jari-Matti was strong but today I knew that without mistakes I would be OK. I tried to stay concentrated, pushing when it was clean and being more cautious in the tricky parts. It wasn’t a big winning margin but enough to win the rally and another crucial step towards winning the title,” he said.
Latvala held a slender lead until the pendulum swung Ogier’s way on Saturday afternoon. Although rain was forecast, he opted for harder compound Michelin tyres than Latvala.
The gamble worked as the rain stayed away and Latvala’s tyres overheated in the warm weather. Ogier turned a four second deficit into a nine second advantage in just one stage, a blow from which Latvala could not recover.
Nasser Al-Attiyah took his third WRC 2 win of the season at Coates Hire Rally Australia on Sunday to strengthen his championship challenge.
He won by 1min 50.4sec from Jari Ketomaa after a rallylong duel with Yazeed Al Rajhi ended when the Saudi Arabian driver retired from the lead after a branch pierced the radiator of his Ford Fiesta RRC.
The win moved Al-Attiyah, also in a Fiesta RRC, to within eight points of series leader Lorenzo Bertelli, who finished fourth. Ketomaa’s fifth runner-up placing of the season means the Finn is only three points from top spot.
Al Rajhi and Al-Attiyah swapped places throughout the rally and Al Rajhi had just regained the lead when he retired in Sunday’s second stage. Having suffered radiator damage he was looking for somewhere to stop when his car clipped a tree and broke the rear suspension.
France’s WRC round was held on the stunning island of Corsica from 1973 to 2008.
After a year’s absence due to rotation, the rally moved to Alsace in 2010.
Alsace is Sebastien Loeb country and he secured his seventh world title at the end of a street stage through his home town of Haguenau that year.
Loeb’s final WRC event was here last year. Even the great Frenchman shed a tear.
What’s new for 2014
Almost half the stage distance has never been used before.
A completely revised street test in Mulhouse ends Saturday’s action.
Sunday – everything is new for 2014.
I have to say WRC+ is pretty nice, especially when the live stages are at 5 PM like this event was.
Maybe not quite worth it yet on a monthly basis with the iffy onboard quality and other glitches.
Works on two devices at the same time too.