Kris Meeke closed on Mikko Hirvonen through Sunday’s opening two stages at Wales Rally GB in their huge battle for second – but the Northern Irishman came close to throwing it away in the muddy conditions.
Meeke was 0.3sec quicker in Brenig and set second fastest time in his Citroen DS3 in Alwen to claw back another 1.0sec. It left the gap at 2.1sec, but Meeke was relieved to escape from a Brenig ditch.
“I ran an inch or two wide and went into a ditch,” he said. “It wouldn’t come out, but I kept the throttle down and went along the ditch for about 50 metres before it popped back on the road. I lost two or three seconds.”
Hirvonen damaged the rear of his Ford Fiesta RS after clipping the finish arch in Brenig and admitted he was frustrated. “I’m trying but it’s really difficult to keep a rhythm. I could easily have been faster,” he said.
Leader Sebastien Ogier took no risks in the slippery forests. He was 13th in Brenig and ninth in Alwen, and although the pace of Meeke and Hirvonen’s battle drew them nearer, Ogier held a comfortable 43.6sec advantage.
Mads Ostberg was fastest in both stages to extend the gap over Thierry Neuville to 12.1sec in their fight for fourth. Neuville admitted he was lucky to escape a lurid slide in Alwen after a pace note error.
Road opener Andreas Mikkelsen was second in Brenig but went off 1km from the end of Alwen and his Volkswagen Polo R was stuck. Ott Tänak punctured the front left tyre on his Fiesta RS while Henning Solberg retired in the liaison section after Alwen with a fuel leak.
Mikko Hirvonen tightened his slender grip on second place at Wales Rally GB through Sunday morning’s two short parkland stages in Kinmel Park.
After losing 1.3sec to rival Kris Meeke in the opening two forest stages, he dropped a further 0.5sec in his Ford Fiesta RS in the first pass through the fan-friendly test after a mix-up at the start left him fuming.
“They gave the time card to us five seconds before our start time. We had no time to prepare and sat on the line for a few seconds,” said the Finn, who saw his advantage slip to just 1.6sec.
But a fired-up Hirvonen blasted through the second pass 3.0sec faster than the Northern Irishman to earn a little breathing space.
Meeke punctured a tyre during his trip along a ditch in the opening stage and with only one spare onboard his Citroen DS3, he cannot risk another flat as Citroen attempts to seal second place in the manufacturers’ championship.
Jari-Matti Latvala was fastest in both tests in his Volkswagen Polo R.
World champion Sebastien Ogier scored his eighth win of the season after a start-to-finish victory at Wales Rally GB on Sunday.
The Frenchman mastered the muddy gravel forest roads in his Volkswagen Polo R to win by 37.6sec from Mikko Hirvonen, who claimed an emotional second place after a titanic battle in his final rally before retirement.
Hirvonen, driving a Ford Fiesta RS, finished 26.0sec clear of Mads Ostberg’s Citroen DS3 on this 13th and final round of the FIA World Rally Championship after Kris Meeke lost his chance of second when he skidded into a ditch and damaged his DS3’s tyres.
Jari-Matti Latvala won the rally-closing live TV Power Stage in a Polo R to take maximum bonus points. Thierry Neuville claimed two points for second in a Hyundai i20, with Ostberg taking one point for third.
2014 ends with 3 Manufacturers on the podium...VW, Ford & Citroen !!
Ogier nets eighth win
World champion Sebastien Ogier ended the WRC season on a winning note after claiming his eighth victory of the year at Wales Rally GB on Sunday.
He mastered the muddy forest tracks to lead the three-day event from start-to-finish in a Volkswagen Polo R, measuring his pace through the final two legs to win by 37.6sec.
Mikko Hirvonen claimed an emotional second place in his final rally before retirement after holding off Kris Meeke in a titanic battle. The pair fought tooth-and-nail until Meeke damaged two tyres after skidding into a ditch this morning and plunged to sixth.
It allowed Mads Ostberg to take third in a Citroen DS3, the Norwegian finishing 26.0sec behind Hirvonen’s Fiesta RS.
Ogier fought with team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala through Friday’s opening leg. But when Latvala slid into a ditch and dropped three minutes yesterday morning, Ogier was handed a 70sec lead and throttled back in the treacherous conditions.
"It’s the best way to finish the season and it was my target,” said Ogier. “We started flat-out on Friday and made an incredible day – there was a big difference to everyone else. My rally changed when Jari-Matti made a mistake and I had control and could ease my pace.
“It wasn’t the most fun way to drive, but in the slippery conditions I had to do it. It was the best way to get the win,” he added.
Hirvonen, Meeke and Ostberg traded places as they fought for second. A 10sec time penalty for arriving late at a time control and a delaminated tyre cost Ostberg valuable time on Saturday and left his rivals to duel for position.
Meeke pushed so hard he damaged two tyres after ditching his DS3 in Sunday’s opening stage. The Northern Irishman continued at unabated speed but, with just one spare onboard, he lost more than 90sec in the final two tests as the tyres cried enough.
“I couldn’t have planned a better way to end my career,” said Hirvonen. “It was a fantastic fight all weekend, one of the most enjoyable of my career. It was an amazing weekend and I’m looking forward to keeping all my memories from the last 13 years and taking them home with me.”
Ostberg was under threat from Thierry Neuville but outpaced the Belgian today to finish 11.3sec ahead of the Hyundai i20, securing second in the manufacturers' championshio for Citroen.
Welshman Elfyn Evans delighted his home fans by relegating Meeke in the final stage to claim fifth in a Fiesta RS.
Estonian Ott Tanak survived a final day puncture to finish seventh in a Fiesta RS with a recovering Latvala, Martin Prokop and Hayden Paddon completing the leaderboard.