Sébastien Ogier repelled team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen’s fierce challenge to secure his second consecutive LOTOS Rally Poland victory on Sunday and net his fifth FIA World Rally Championship success in seven rounds.
He won by 11.9sec after almost 300km of super-fast action in north-east Poland, leaving his Volkswagen team-mate still searching for his maiden victory. Ott Tänak equalled his career-best result in third after Jari-Matti Latvala crashed in the final speed test.
Ogier’s victory was achieved the hard way. As road opener for the first two legs, he was disadvantaged by cleaning gravel from the sandy tracks for most of the rally and had Mikkelsen breathing down his neck from the moment he took the lead on Friday afternoon.
The Polo R duo were split by 2.1sec after the opening leg, Ogier had eked his advantage out to 5.6sec by last night and completed victory with a flourish today by claiming maximum bonus points for winning the final live TV Power Stage.
Blistering heat saw the thermometer top 33°C and tyre choice became decisive. Mikkelsen’s decision to opt for hard compounds on Saturday afternoon gave him the best opportunity to overhaul Ogier, who chose softer rubber, but the Norwegian has hampered by hanging dust.
“This year I’ve had many great wins, but this one is very special,” said Ogier.“For 90 per cent of the rally I opened the road so this is amazing. I had to push from the first metre to the last. I have a small break now and this is the perfect start to my holiday.”
Tänak, who led briefly on Friday afternoon, and Jari-Matti Latvala fought tooth and nail for the final podium place. They started the last stage separated by 1.1sec but the Estonian secured third in a Ford Fiesta RS when Latvala hit a tree with a handful of kilometres left.
The impact broke the radiator on his Polo R and he worked furiously on the liaison section after the stage to make repairs to ensure he could drive to the finish (bottom). However a 40sec penalty for checking in late dropped him to fifth.
The beneficiary was Hayden Paddon, who followed his stellar performance in Italy last month with another great drive to finish fourth in a Hyundai i20. He headed Latvala by 10.1sec with team-mate Thierry Neuville completing the top six 19.8sec further back.
Neuville rolled in the penultimate stage but was quickly back on his wheels to finish ahead of Kris Meeke. The Ulsterman struggled for confidence afterThursday’s shakedown roll, but moved ahead of Robert Kubica when the Pole punctured in the final stage.
Mads Østberg surrendered second in the championship to Mikkelsen after finishing ninth, while Dani Sordo completed the leaderboard.
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