Sebastien Ogier took victory in the Japanese round of the World Rally Championship to take his victory tally for his WRC career, and the 2010 season, to two.
The young Frenchman benefited from long-term rally leader Petter Solberg and top Ford competitor Mikko Hirvonen hitting problems in the final day.
Ogier started the final day 5.4 seconds behind Solberg, but overhauled him early on, and then closed out the rally in first place.
Speaking of his victory Ogier said “It's amazing really and I'm really happy”.
“Arriving here for my first time I knew it was a difficult rally because I don't like stages that are very rough. But quickly I found a good feeling and a good rhythm”, added Ogier.
Solberg, who despite suffering with a fever throughout the event, was leading for the majority, but fell back after steering and damper issues on the final day, but still managed to claim a brilliant second place finish.
“I never thought it would go so well after the fever because I was terrible at the start of the rally”, said Solberg, before adding “but I had a very good feeling. It's just unfortunate we had a problem with the car”.
Mikko Hirvonen has been victorious on Rally Japan on two occasions. He and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed wins in 2007 and 2008, however 2010 would not be so generous.
A problem with his gear selection hampered him, allowing Sebastien Loeb to overhaul him, demoting him to sixth place overall.
The top three of the rally was completed with Hirvonen’s team mate, Jari-Matti Latvala. The young Finn enjoyed a strong run throughout, and finished 26 seconds off the lead at the rally end.
The Citroen pairing of Dani Sordo and Sebastian Loeb finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Ogier’s victory sees him bolster his second place in the championship standings with three evens to run.
With 75-points left to claim in the 2010 season, Ogier and Latvala are the only two who stand a mathematical chance of preventing Sebastien Loeb’s charge to his seventh successive WRC title.
Loeb sits atop the standings with 201-points, Ogier second with 158, and Latvala third with 132-points.
The championship seems an almost formality for Loeb, as for Latvala to overhaul his tally, Loeb would have to finish out of the points each time, with a hat trick of wins from Latvala, and with the next event being an asphalt round, this is highly unlikely.
As for Ogier’s chances, he will almost certainly not be allowed to challenge Loeb at the top of the standings, even if he had the chance, as team orders will be in strong force within the Citroen camp.