Ogier wins, Citroën stays in front
Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia did not make any mistakes in the Sunday morning sprint on the final day of Rally France Alsace, and gave the Citroën Total World Rally Team its ninth victory in the eleven rallies run so far this season. This win has helped the French team maintain its comfortable lead in the Manufacturers’ World Championship. On the other hand, the positions in the Drivers’ Championship title chase have closed up as only three points now separate Sébastien Loeb, Mikko Hirvonen and Sébastien Ogier.
Compared to the two long stages on Friday and Saturday the third day of Rally France Alsace was a sprint. The crews left the Strasbourg parc fermé at 6h20 and covered two loops of three stages without a service halt. The leg measured only 42 kilometers and looked like a stroll in the park, despite which Sébastien Ogier knew that he couldn’t afford to lift off until the finish as his lead over Dani Sordo was less than ten seconds.
The first stage was in the Bischwiller gravel pit posing a singular challenge as the first half was run on gravel. Ogier lost 3 seconds to Sordo on the 5,52-km eighteenth stage. “We hesitated for a long time about our tyre choice in the service park and finally we opted for hard rubber,” explained the Citroën driver. “We knew that I’d lose time in Bischwiller but our choice was better adapted to the summer conditions we would meet further on.”
It was the right way to go as the DS3 WRC driver was on equal footing with his rivals in the following stages. Ogier held on to his short lead over Sordo and then set the fastest time in the Cleebourg vines (SS22). The rally ended with the Power Stage in the streets of Haguenau. The Citroën Total World Rally Team driver set the third-quickest time scoring an extra point: “Our decision to go for hard tyres didn’t pay off as we spent a lot of time in the regrouping park before the stage. I finally set off on completely cold tyres and I wasn’t able to do any better.”
By scoring 26 points in this rally Ogier is back among the front-runners in the Drivers’ World Championship: “It’s been a very long rally as I carried the responsibility for the whole team on my shoulders. I’m just happy to be able to relax. Obviously, this victory means a lot to me from a personal point of view. Five wins in a season is already a pretty good achievement. I’d like to thank the team which gave me a perfect car. Congratulations also to Dani Sordo; he drove really well all weekend and it wasn’t easy to beat him.”
Frédéric Banzet, the Automobiles Citroën General Manager was also delighted that the French make had won its home rally again: “Sébastien Loeb was unlucky and it’s great that Sébastien Ogier was able to take up where he left off and win. The end of the season is going to be a bit stressful, as our aim is still to win the two championships. We’ve made another step towards the manufacturers’ title as our main rival reduced our lead by only two points.”