Sébastien Ogier takes Wales Rally GB victory

Sébastian Ogier

Newly crowned World Champion Sébastien Ogier rounded off a sensational season in fine style by claiming his first ever Wales Rally GB victory this weekend (14-17 November).

The Volkswagen Motorsport star had already won eight WRC events during the 2013 campaign and secured the title at his home round in France last month. The 29-year-old arrived in Wales brimming with confidence and fittingly won the final event of the year in commanding fashion.

The Frenchman led throughout the four days of competition but was kept honest by his team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala. The Finn reduced the deficit to around 20 seconds on day three, but Ogier extended the gap again on Sunday to comfortably claimed victory in front of huge crowds in north Wales.

Qatar World Rally Team’s Thierry Neuville held on to take third, plus a bonus three points for winning today’s Power Stage, which was enough for him to secure runner-up spot in the championship. It was a splendid end to the Belgian’s impressive season as he now bids farewell to his M-Sport Ford before moving to Hyundai in 2014.

A fierce scrap for fourth commenced on the final day of the season and it was Mads Østberg who came out on top in the battle of the Norwegians. His compatriot Andreas Mikkelsen had earlier been in contention for a maiden podium, but the young talent eventually faded to take fifth following a spin on Sunday in his VW Polo.

The event proved disastrous for Citroën as both Robert Kubica and Mikko Hirvonen crashed out. Kubica’s debut in WRC machinery was dramatic and ultimately disappointing as the former F1 star crashed twice during the running, the second of which forced him into retirement for the weekend. Dani Sordo brought some relief to the French marque by topping two stages, but he still finished well down the order in seventh, behind the privately run machine of Martin Prokop.

Local hero Elfyn Evans starred throughout his home event as he romped to a maiden WRC2 victory and impressively finished eighth overall to the delight of a passionate British crowd. He eventually won by more than a minute from Jari Ketomaa, while Briton Mark Higgins completed the class podium.

There was more delight for some home favourites as F1 pundit Tony Jardine and Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams MBE took class honours. It rounded off a wonderful journey for the pair as Williams partnered Jardine in the final WRC event of the year, having successfully completed the required four national events in order to qualify as a co-driver.

The three and two day National Rallies for amateur crews, running alongside Wales Rally GB, were won by Euan Thorburn and Keith Parry respectively.

The final words, however, must go to the 2013 FIA World Rally Champion and the tens of thousands of fans who made the revitalised Wales Rally GB such a successful event. From dawn until dusk, spectators lined the forest, roads and historical landmarks, and in Sébastien Ogier they were able to witness a true master of his trade producing a champions drive.

Sébastien Ogier said: “It has been a perfect year. This is our first win here – it’s really amazing and I’m so happy. Once again I give a big thanks to the team, the car was just perfect. We haven’t been so good here in the past, but we had a great battle with my team-mate which was special and I’m really happy. It will be a hard challenge to keep the title next year but that is the aim.”

Jari-Matti Latvala said: “I am a bit disappointed as I won this rally in 2011 and 2012 – of course I wanted another one. The speed was good but there were too many little mistakes over the four days. I need to work on my rhythm for next year as it’s not there sometimes, but it has been a good weekend for us.”

Thierry Neuville said: “I am really really happy with that. We couldn’t have imagined this at the beginning of the season. Everybody has worked really hard and I need to thank everyone. Of course I am sad to be leaving this team, but I must also look forward and we’re going to push and keep working hard.”

Elfyn Evans said: “It’s a special feeling to win here. To see so many Welsh flags waving out there is incredible. It’s been an amazing learning experience at M-Sport and I want to thank everyone for the opportunity. The car has just been amazing and it’s brilliant to win our home event. We’ll just have to see what happens next year.”

Amy Williams said: “It’s been an unbelievable few days. It has also been crazy and really tough, particularly today with a wheel change, but I’ve honestly loved every minute of it. The plan was always to get to the finish and we’ve made it! I’ve really got the bug for rallying now – I absolutely love it so let’s see what happens in the future.”

Wales Rally GB – 2013 FIA World Rally Championship – Provisional Classification:

After 22 of 22 stages – Top Ten – Sunday 17 November 

1. Sébastien OGIER         Volkswagen Motorsport                 3:03:36.7
2. Jari-Matti LATVALA          Volkswagen Motorsport                 3:03:58.5
3. Thierry NEUVILLE             Qatar World Rally Team                 3:05:01.2
4. Mads ØSTBERG               Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team   3:05:24.9
5. Andreas MIKKELSEN       Volkswagen Motorsport II               3:05:40.1
6. Martin PROKOP               Jipocar Czech National Team         3:11:14.2
7. Dani SORDO                     Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT 3:12:04.6
8. Elfyn EVANS*                   Qatar M-Sport World Rally Team   3:14:49.8
9. Jari KETOMAA*                DMAK-AUTOTEK                             3:15:52.9
10. Mark HIGGINS*               Symtech Racing                               3:16:57.7

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