Three days of high-octane entertainment reached a climax at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB, with tens of thousands of fans lining the legendary Welsh forests as FIA World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier sped to a hard-fought success in the series’ closest finish of the year. The Frenchman withstood final day pressure from Ott Tänak to win the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship by 10.2sec and secure the manufacturers’ title for Volkswagen.
Thierry Neuville finished third in a Hyundai i20, a further 1min 25.2sec behind. His fourth consecutive podium gives him a 14-point advantage over Andreas Mikkelsen in their fight for the runners-up spot heading into the finale in Australia.
Ogier proved himself once again as he conquered the event’s classic challenge – making Dayinsure Wales Rally GB the first WRC round the Frenchman has won four times in a row, and in so doing securing the Manufacturers’ crown for Volkswagen for a fourth consecutive year. He joins Hannu Mikkola and Petter Solberg in an elite club of four-time winners on British soil.
It was Ogier’s first gravel road win of the campaign and the Frenchman has led for every single kilometer of the British fixture since the start of the 2013 event. The fog and mud of the first two days eased to leave better conditions today, although the six forest speed tests in north Wales, covering 52.08km, were no less slippery.
Ogier, driving a Polo R, started with a 33.8sec lead but couldn’t match Tänak’s pace. The Estonian won all six stages in a Ford Fiesta RS to close in. A broken intercom and puncture earlier in the rally cost Tänak vital time, but second matched his career-best result.
“The main target this weekend was to be manufacturers’ champion,” said Ogier. “I’m not world champion without the team’s hard work and it was great to take the title with a victory once again. It wasn’t easy and I was able to ease off in the last few stages, but not so much. Ott was really flying. He was fast, very consistent and didn’t make any mistakes so it was a tough victory to get.”
“To draw equal on wins here with Petter and Hannu is incredible – they’re two of the giants of our sport,” Ogier said. “It’s always a huge challenge to win in Wales. It’s funny – a few years ago, this was one of my least favourite rallies on the calendar as I really found it difficult to master and now it’s one I always really enjoy. The stages are beautiful and you’re always on the limit and close to the edge.”
The rally winner had to fend off a determined charge throughout the event from Ott Tänak, with the Estonian winning more stages than anybody else as he valiantly took the fight to the most successful driver of the current era and ultimately closed to within barely ten seconds.
“I really enjoyed this rally,” reflected the DMACK World Rally Team driver. “It’s always one of the toughest events of the year and GB is a true classic on the WRC calendar with a lot of history behind it. These stages are some of the best in the world and in what were pretty challenging conditions at times, it was an exciting fight with Seb all the way through.”
The final top eight finishers comprised eight different nationalities. Belgian ace Neuville prevailed in a Hyundai scrap for the final spot on the podium with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon to secure the Korean manufacturer’s maiden rostrum finish in the UK, while Britain’s Kris Meeke placed fifth on the competitive swansong for Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Citroën DS3 WRC. Spaniard Dani Sordo wound up sixth, with Finland’s Jari-Matti Latvala – a driver who has competed in Wales every year since 2002 – recovering to seventh after an opening day driveshaft failure. Norwegian Mads Østberg completed the top eight for M-Sport World Rally Team, with Frenchmen Stéphane Lefebvre and Eric Camilli rounding out the points-scorers in ninth and tenth.
FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), Rally Great Britain – Final Results
01. Sébastien Ogier/Julien Ingrassia (F/F), Volkswagen, 3h 14m 30.2s
02. Ott Tänak/Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST), Ford, + 10.2s
03. Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (B/B), Hyundai, + 1m 35.4s
04. Hayden Paddon/John Kennard (NZ/NZ), Hyundai, + 1m 54.9s
05. Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle (GB/IRL), Citroën, + 2m 35.2s
06. Dani Sordo/Marc Martí (E/E), Hyundai, + 4m 02.6s
07. Jari-Matti Latvala/Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN), Volkswagen, + 4m 28.3s
08. Mads Østberg/Ola Fløene (N/N), Ford, + 4m 38.3s
09. Stéphane Lefebvre/Gilles de Turckheim (F/F), Citroën, + 7m 12.2s
10. Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F), Ford, + 8m 19.3s