WRC wrap: Ogier beats Loeb to win Vodafone Rally de Portugal Sebastien Ogier has claimed his first world championship victory by narrowly defeating Sebastien Loeb on Vodafone Rally de Portugal. The Citroen Junior Team driver started the third...
WRC wrap: Ogier beats Loeb to win Vodafone Rally de Portugal
Sebastien Ogier has claimed his first world championship victory by narrowly defeating Sebastien Loeb on Vodafone Rally de Portugal.
The Citroen Junior Team driver started the third and final day with a lead of 21.1 seconds and showed a level of maturity that belied his 26 years to hold firm as Loeb tried in vain to get ahead of his countryman.
After completing the final sun-baked gravel stage with a lead of 7.7s over Loeb, Ogier knew he would ensure first place by safely negotiating the rally-closing superspecial through the Estadio Algarve near Faro. Roared on by thousands of spectators, Ogier did exactly that and even set a time faster than Loeb, just for good measure, to win by 7.9s.
"It's a fantastic feeling and I am very, very happy," said Ogier. "It has not been easy with Sebastien behind me, pushing me all the time, but we also pushed hard for all of the rally and made no mistakes."
Ogier's co-driver, Julien Ingrassia, added: "It's a special feeling. I have worked so hard preparing to get to this level and to achieve this win is a big moment for me."
Loeb was fastest on all four of Sunday's gravel stages but ultimately couldn't deny Ogier his day in the limelight. "I tried all the rally to beat him but he was just too fast," said Loeb. "On the second pass through the stages he was untouchable. I have a new rival now."
Dani Sordo completed a Citroen podium lockout after profiteering from the steering glitch that slowed Petter Solberg on the final morning and demoted the Norwegian to fourth overall heading into the super special. "I had to push really hard to get in front of him," said the Spaniard.
Solberg looked set to take fourth only to clout a water-filled barrier in the superspecial and tip his privately-run Citroen C4 onto two wheels. The delay allowed Mikko Hirvonen, driving a works Ford Focus, to snatch fourth place by 3.7s.
Matthew Wilson, who was up against Solberg in the superspecial, overcame brake and steering woes to complete the top six for the Stobart M-Sport team, which lost team-mate Henning Solberg's similar Focus to an overheating engine on Sunday's second stage.
Mads Ostberg brought his Subaru Impreza home in seventh overall despite fearing he might not make the finish when a number of engine warning lights flashed up on his car's dashboard after stage 15.
Federico Villagra survived striking a bank on the penultimate gravel stage, which ripped the front bumper from his Munchi's Ford Focus, to claim eighth spot, 19.7s clear of Abu Dhabi's Khalid Al Qassimi. The Argentine was fastest through the 2.03-kilometre superspecial.
Ex-Formula One world champion Kimi Raikkonen was slowed by a handling imbalance on his Citroen Junior Team-run C4 on the opening loop of stages and then a tyre deflation, caused by striking a rock, on stage 16. He finished 10th to claim the final drivers' championship point.