Reigning World Champion Sebastien Ogier has won Rally Poland to further strengthen his 2014 WRC Championship aspirations with a lead of 50 points.
Ogier’s win was his fifth of the season and Volkswagen’s 11th event win in a row.
Ogier went into Sunday’s final four stages with an already commanding of more than a minute to team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen.
“I think it was the perfect weekend for me,” said an overjoyed Ogier. “I have got a victory and a good step for the championship.”
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Ogier though. Due to his early road position Ogier struggled on Thursday and Friday and was swapping the lead with Mikkelsen constantly.
Mikkelsen though began to hit trouble on SS12. The Norwegian made a mistake that lost him about 10 seconds, the VW man then continued to steadily drop further and further back.
On Saturday’s final test Mikkelsen suffered brake issues to lose over 30 seconds which put the rally result beyond any doubt.
“It has been a great weekend for me,” said Mikkelsen. “We’re getting closer and closer. The potential is there but, of course, there are things we need to improve. It takes time but hopefully a win isn’t too far away.”
the Hyundai of Thierry Neuville rounded off the podium. Neuville suffered brake early in the rally, but due to a number of drivers ahead of him hitting trouble, Neuville was ablt to move from 10th to third.
“I am quite pleased,” said Neuville after his second podium in the new i20 WRC. “We struggled with the brakes a bit on the first two days. But the team has done a great job.”
Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala were the main focus on Sunday. The M-Sport and VW duo became embroiled in a close battle after a resurgent Latvala, who lost over one and a half minutes after damaging his front suspension, charged up the order from seventh.
In the end Latvala lost out to Hirvonen by just 0.7s. Hirvonen was relieved to keep fourth position.
“It was a tough struggle this weekend,” said Hirvonen. “I have never had so much trouble with my pace-notes but the final position wasn’t too bad.”
Juho Hanninen finished in sixth for Hyundai with the Citroen of Kris Meeke a distant seventh.
Meeke had been running third earlier in the rally. But a puncture on the Goldap stage ended any hope of a podium finish.
Despite the setbacks Meeke believes he can take a lot of positives from the rally.
“I think I’ve made a real step forward in terms of driving. I feel I’m more consistent and that I have the ability to go a little bit faster still,” said Meeke.
Haydon Paddon and Henning Solberg finished eighth and ninth respectively with Martin Prokop way off the pace down in tenth.
Rally Poland also claimed many casualties on it’s long and treacherous roads.
Mads Ostberg, Elfyn Evans and Robert Kubica all fell victim to crucial mistakes.
Ostberg rolled his Citroen DS3 WRC on SS14 after hitting a rock. The incident severely damaged his car and the roll cage which forced him to retire.
Strangely Evans hit the same rock as Ostberg on SS14. Evans damaged his lower front suspension link but was able to re-join the rally under rally 2, the Welshman finished outside the top 20.
And former F1 driver and local hero, Kubica also finished under rally 2. Kubica knocked a wheel off on SS17 in front of his home fans. He had been running sixth earlier in the rally but could only manage to come home 20th after his incident.
Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap
1. Sebastien Ogier VW 2m34.02.0s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen VW +1m07.7s
3. Thierry Neuville Hyundai +2m13.5s
4. Mikko Hirvonen M-Sport Ford +2m32.4s
5. Jari-Matti Latvala VW +2m33.1s
6. Juho Hanninen Hyundai +2m45.2s
7. Kris Meeke Citroen +4m27.9s
8. Hayden Paddon Hyundai +4m32.1s
9. Henning Solberg Solberg Ford +4m59.0s
10. Martin Prokop Czech Ford +6m11.3s