Sebastien Ogier cruised to an eighth win of the 2014 in Wales Rally GB. Driving cautiously to avoid a costly mistake his lead shrank from a minute down to less than 40 seconds as a combative Mikko Hirvonen scored second place to bring the curtain down on his WRC career.
He did so without the pressure from behind he had contended with for the first two days of the rally. He begun the six stages of the final day with Kris Meeke just 3.4 seconds behind, a gap that started to come down during the first six stages of the day as the Citroen man closed to within two seconds after the first running of the 2.21km Kinmel Park RallyFest stage.
However, on the second run that immediately followed Hirvonen was three seconds quicker than Meeke, the Ulsterman having to employ an increasing cautious approach owing to damage picked up on the first stage of the day.
On his way through the Brenig stage Meeke skirted across the top of a ditched, teetering on the edge of falling in. Fortunately – sort of – he was bounced back onto the road but his continuation came at a cost. Two damaged right side tyres. One was replaced after the stage, but the rear tyre had to remain on the car for the duration and when it slipped off the bead Meeke was forced to give up the chase of second place and nurse the car to the end in order to collect manufacturer points.
His slowed progress dropped him from third to sixth, his teammate Mads Ostberg the immediate beneficiary ending on the podium a day he started with two fastest stage times. Thierry Neuville moved up to fourth and Elfyn Evans took fifth overall after the Power Stage.
At the same time Meeke was closing in on him Hirvonen was experiencing problems of his own. A wild slide at the very end of the first stage of the day took out the flying finish banner. His morning was further complicated in the busy start zone for the Kinmel Park stage. With crews on both their first and second runs through the park lining up Hirvonen wasn’t given the time to properly launch his car into the stage, a factor that cost him several seconds in a battle with Meeke that would soon be dissolved.
Ott Tanak was sixth overall with Jari-Matti Latvala salvaging seventh after his day two off. Latvala won the final four stages of the rally, including the Power Stage, where Neuville and Ostberg also supplemented their final points’ scores of the year.
Martin Prokop and Hayden Paddon completed the top ten, the Kiwi moving into the top ten after Henning Solberg’s retirement with a fuel lead after the first Alwen stage.
Andreas Mikkelsen was also forced to sit out the majority of the day after sliding off the road a kilometre from the end of the first Alwen test. Opening the road once again after returning to action on Saturday after his Friday crash the Norwegian was again on the pace, second fastest behind his countryman Ostberg on the day’s opener, but a second off of the weekend ended his event as the attempts to get the Polo moving again resulted with a burnt out clutch.
Though Ogier reportedly had a moment at the same corner as his VW teammate looked on the Frenchman was otherwise trouble free as he gave VW a record breaking twelfth win of the season.