Sébastien Ogier edged close to a fifth consecutive World Rally Championship title with a second place finish at Rally de Espana last weekend, and the M-Sport driver described the result as being “like a victory”.
Ogier extended his gap to championship rival Thierry Neuville to 38 points after the Belgian retired on the final day, allowing team-mate Ott Tänak to move into second place overall and 37 points off the reigning champion’s total after Spain.
Having spent much of the rally duelling for position with Tänak, he staved off the challenge from his junior colleague, whilst benefiting from Dani Sordo hitting a rock and retiring from second place with broken suspension on Saturday.
Despite making progress on the latter two days of the event, Ogier attributed the result to his efforts on the opening day of the event, which was held on gravel rather than the tarmac surfaces of Saturday and Sunday’s stages.
“This second place feels like a victory,” said the Frenchman. “On Friday we started with an exceptional day, which we ended in second place, one second adrift of the leader. Considering that we were opening the road during that gravel leg, we couldn’t have started in a better way.
“When the rally switched to tarmac, we would have liked to be faster but we still kept a good pace which enabled us to stay in front of Ott. In any case, the Meeke-C3 package was unbeatable on tarmac this weekend, so congratulations to them for this beautiful win.
“Even though we didn’t quite have the speed on asphalt to fight for the win, we produced a solid race, making no mistakes. Given the characteristics of the rally, we knew that a podium would be a good result and from a mathematical point of view it’s a great achievement for us.”
Only 60 points are left to play for in the remaining two events for the driver’s championship, while a double finish in any order at one of the next two rallies would secure the manufacturers’ championship for M-Sport. With the maths very much in his favour, Ogier made clear he expects to arrive at Rally Australia in November having secured another title.
“We arrived in Catalunya aiming to increase our lead and the outcome is even better than expected. M-Sport also took a decisive step towards the manufacturers’ championship and there is a very strong probability that we could be celebrating that title at their home rally in Wales.
“The target is clear: try to make the final step to secure both titles on the next rally.”