For the 10th consecutive year, October saw a “Sebastien” crowned as king of the rally-driving scene, but it wasn’t the Sebastien Loeb who had dominated the sport since 2004, as everyone was expecting.
Instead, it was Sebastien Ogier who stopped his namesake from making it a decade of triumph, capitalising on the Frenchman having to pull out three weeks ago and claiming overall victory for himself.
That achievement was capped with another stage win at the Rally de Espana this weekend, where Ogier lived up to expectations and finished atop the podium for the eighth time this season.
|2||Jari-Matti Latvala||Volkswagen||+32.9 secs|
|3||Mikko Hirvonen||Citroen||+1:13 secs|
|4||Thierry Neuville||Qatar WRT||+1:39 secs|
|5||Evgeny Novikov||Qatar Motorsport||+2:01 secs|
|6||Mads Ostberg||Qatar Motorsport||+2:26 secs|
Winning by 32.9 seconds in his Polo R, Ogier’s triumph also means that Volkswagen Motorsport will add the manufacturers’ championship to their collection, ending Citroen’s five-year grip on the title.
As the Official World Rally Championship Twitter account suggests, the Frenchman’s win on the gravel and tarmac of Salou didn’t come easily and included a superb comeback along the way:
Unbelievably fast pace from Ogier, now only 14.4 off the lead & just 2.9 to take 2nd place from Sordo. Incredible drive in dusty condition— WRC (@OfficialWRC) October 27, 2013
The Finnish pair of Jari-Matti Latvala and Mikko Hirvonen finished second and third, respectively, with the latter giving his rivals a firm pat on the back in his post-race comments:
After last stage : "I'm happy to be on the podium but it would have been so good to see Dani as well on the podium of his home race" #wrc— Mikko Hirvonen (@MikkoWRC) October 27, 2013
Colin McMaster took this image, capturing Ogier’s moment of Spanish triumph:
Although it holds little prospect for a competition whose top prize has already been awarded, drivers and co-drivers alike now look ahead to the final leg of their rally season, a British meeting in November.
Going into that 12th stage, Ogier holds a decisive 95-point lead over his closest opponent, Thierry Neuville, who could only muster a fourth-place finish on Sunday afternoon.
The Belgian was forced to relinquish any hopes of a world title a long time ago, and it’s really no wonder that Ogier has raced to victory in the fashion he has, with just four wins being shared among the rest of the field in total.
|2||Thierry Neuvelle||Qatar WRT||143|
The result is a decisive mark up for Ogier; his previous best WRC overall finish was the third place achieved with Citroen in 2011, when he racked up a respectable 196 points.
That tally is now blown out of the water, with the 29-year-old finishing off the podium just twice this year.
The Spanish result showed that, in addition to having a great mechanical team behind him and a co-driver to match, Ogier holds incredible driving skill and is fully deserving of his championship ahead of his British victory lap.