Sébastien Ogier closed on his fourth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title after a dominant drive to a maiden victory at the Che Guevara Energy Drink Tour de Corse. The Frenchman won the 10th round of the season by 46.4sec in his Volkswagen Polo R. Victory in Corsica saw Ogier and Julien Ingrassia take a big step towards the world championship title.
Thierry Neuville maintained his strong form to finish second in his Hyundai i20 with Andreas Mikkelsen third in a Polo R, a further 23.6sec back after 390.92km of twisty and bumpy asphalt mountain road action on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Victory on every stage on the opening day of the rally – Ogier/Ingrassia became the first men to achieve this feat since Volkswagen entered the fray at the 2013 Rally Monte Carlo. This also proved vital to their success: the three-time world champions kept a cool head to maintain their early lead right through to the finish – almost to the second. It enabled him to measure his pace through the final two days, when wet roads made conditions tricky, to secure his fourth win of the year.
“What we really wanted this weekend was to get the win at our home rally. It is the first time that Julien and I have won a WRC event on Corsica and it feels fantastic. It’s a real classic. We had a strong start on Friday and were able to manage the lead on Saturday and Sunday. It went perfectly. I couldn’t be happier. The chances of being able to celebrate the championship title here were only really theoretical, but now we have a real possibility of clinching it in Spain. We are so close to getting our fourth star. It’s fantastic and naturally we will turn all of our attention to that now. We want to take the momentum from Corsica with us. But we won’t be driving tactically at all, we want to fight for the win there, too.” said Ogier, whose previous French victory was in Alsace in 2013.
Neuville held second from midway through the opening leg, despite worries over his car’s handling. Mikkelsen was hot on his heels until improvements to Neuville’s differential enabled the Belgian to pull clear and climb to third in the drivers’ standings.
Mikkelsen was one of many to struggle with overheating tires and brakes in the high temperatures but the Norwegian eased to his first podium since winning in Poland in July. Latvala, who won in Corsica in 2015, finished a frustrated fourth. Brake problems hindered the Finn for the opening two days and it was only when new pads and changes to his Polo R’s set-up were introduced today that he felt comfortable in the stages.
Craig Breen excelled on his asphalt debut in a World Rally Car to finish fifth in a Citroën DS 3 ahead of New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon. Paddon, inexperienced on asphalt, was disappointed with his driving and promised to go ‘back to the drawing board’.