Rally de Portugal
Sunday wrap: Ogier strikes gold in Portugal
Sebastien Ogier completed the final day of Vodafone Rally de Portugal to claim his third victory since breaking into the world championship's top division three years ago.
Driving a Citroen DS3 WRC, Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia produced an error-free performance to land their second successive triumph on the demanding gravel stages of the Algarve.
After completing the rally-closing Power Stage with the third fastest time, Ogier said: “I’m very happy, we had the perfect weekend, the car was perfect and Julien was perfect. I would like to dedicate this victory to all the team who prepared a perfect car. They showed trust in me since the start of the season and following my mistake in Mexico. It is the best way to come back. It is a long way to go in the championship but I’m in a better position.”
Ogier’s team-mate, the seven-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, won the Power Stage to cement second overall. The three points he scored for winning the final run, combined with his 18 points for finishing second, means the 37-year-old Frenchman is now equal on points with Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen at the top of the drivers’ standings after three rounds.
Hirvonen finished fourth overall behind Ford team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala after being delayed on Sunday morning by a broken driveshaft. He was also slowed in the closing section of the Power Stage with a suspected rear damper problem.
Latvala’s third-place means he has now finished on the podium on the opening three events of the year. “That makes me really happy,” he said.
Matthew Wilson started the final loop of stages in fourth place but couldn’t prevent Hirvonen from overtaking him on the rain-hit penultimate stage. He admitted he crawled through stage 17 to secure an impressive fifth overall in his M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC.
Petter Solberg started day three in ninth position but wins on stages 15 and 16 hauled him back to within touching distance of sixth-placed Kimi Raikkonen heading into the Power Stage. Although he was unable to bag a third-straight win on the test, he did manage to overhaul Raikkonen, in a similar DS3 WRC, for sixth spot.
“It was not bad but for me I am very sad about the first day with the unbelievable punctures,” said Solberg. “But I recovered from this and I will never give up.”
Ice 1 Racing driver Raikkonen said: “I knew Petter would push like hell [on the last stage] but it was okay. We learned a lot with this car on this rally after just a little test. We improved the car, now we have to pick up the speed a bit.”
Argentina’s Federico Villagra said he still needs more time to learn his Munchi’s Fiesta after finishing eighth with stand-in co-driver Jose Diaz.
Henning Solberg started Sunday’s opening stage in sixth overall but fell back when his Fiesta suffered a turbo boost problem on the penultimate stage. Fearing he might delay Hirvonen on the Power Stage (the Finn was running behind him after the running order was reversed for the last two stages), Solberg lost more time when he stopped to wait for Hirvonen to pass. He settled for ninth.
Dennis Kuipers landed his first drivers’ championship point of the season by finishing 10th in his FERM Power Tools World Rally Team Fiesta. The Dutchman said: “I’m really happy. It’s been a tough rally with lots of difficult stages.”
Mads Ostberg restarted on day three following his retirement with powersteering failure on Saturday. He spent the morning experimenting with different set-ups on his Fiesta and set several top 10 stage times in the process.
Peter van Merksteijn Jr also restarted on Sunday after stopping with an unspecified mechanical fault on Saturday. He brought his DS3 WRC, which he was using in competition for the first time, to the finish in 22nd after surviving an overshoot on the Power Stage.
Team Abu Dhabi’s Khalid Al Qassimi was another driver to return to the action on day three after crashing on Saturday. His accident left Michael Orr, celebrating his 100th start at WRC level, with broken ribs.
Bruno Magalhaes was the leading Portuguese driver home. Driving a Peugeot 207 Super 2000, the former national champion finished 12th overall following delays on Friday morning with brake problems.