Ogier pips Latvala in thrilling Jordan finish!
16 April 2011
Just under four years ago, Marcus Grönholm defeated Sébastien Loeb by the slender margin of three tenths of a second on Rally New Zealand to register the narrowest World Rally Championship victory in history. Today, another Sébastien – Monsieur Ogier – cut his own triumph on Rally Jordan even finer.
On a nail-biting final afternoon in the Middle East, Ford Abu Dhabi World Rally Team star Jari-Matti Latvala relieved Loeb of second place in the morning and doggedly pressed on to overturn the deficit to Ogier, too, moving into the lead on the penultimate stage of the shortened event.
More than half-a-minute down at the beginning of the day, the Finn pushed absolutely to the ragged edge and after overhauling Ogier – penalised by running first-on-the-road today – he took an advantage of just half-a-second into the bonus point Power Stage...but that was precisely when the Frenchman hit back, becoming the first driver ever to win both the new-for-2011 Power Stage as well as the rally itself.
Pipping Latvala's team-mate Mikko Hirvonen by a scant four hundredths of a second, the 27-year-old reclaimed the lead he had held for much of the event to secure his fourth WRC success – and second on the bounce after Portugal last month – and move into third spot in the drivers' title chase, just five points adrift of the top of the table now.
“Incredible,” he enthused to the championship's official website, “an incredible day! I had to push like hell today. It's an amazing feeling. Jari-Matti was so fast and I had to drive flat-out. I'm so happy to end like this.”
“I pushed very hard and I can be satisfied with second place,” added Latvala, who conceded critical ground in the middle of the Power Stage before coming back strongly to within a whisker of outright rally victory. “I pushed as much as I could.”
Third place fell to new world championship leader Loeb, who battled against oversteer issues in his Citroën Total World Rally Team DS3 WRC day-long and made what he described as 'a big mistake' as he pushed for Power Stage glory, running very wide – but with nobody to threaten his bottom step on the rostrum, the error was of little consequence.
The fourth and final man who had been in the mix right at the front was former World Rally Champion Petter Solberg, but the Norwegian's bid in his privately-entered Citroën came to grief on SS17 when, as he explains, 'about two kilometres into the stage, we had a major spin and just went off the road and got stuck – there were some really big rocks there, and we were not able to get the car back on the stage and continue'.
Solberg's misfortune promoted Hirvonen into fourth position, the Finn still left ruing his 'road sweeper' role on Friday that had cost him more than two minutes and destroyed his hopes of triumphing. The Finn nevertheless intelligently preserved his tyres for the Power Stage and earned two bonus points with the second-fastest time.
“We were full on it, and I definitely gave it the best shot I had,” the 30-year-old confessed. “I'm a little bit disappointed with the overall result because yesterday I struggled, but today was better.”
More than three minutes in arrears again in fifth place at the finish was Matthew Wilson in the M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta, whose battle with ex-F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen was more-or-less resolved when the ICE 1 Racing Team star picked up a puncture not far into SS19.
“Something happened after service,” mused the Cumbrian. “Maybe we lost a little pre-load from the rear diff. Even on the straight, I couldn't keep it in a straight line, but we got a bit of luck to finish fifth. We've learned a lot again about the car.”
“We wanted to push a bit harder after the first gravel rally,” added the Finn. “From the driving side this was probably one of my best and most consistent rallies, so I'm happy with that.”
Munchis Ford World Rally Team's Federico Villagra overcame some oil temperature issues to take his best finish of the season to-date in seventh, with Khalid Al Qassimi behind in eighth tallying his best-ever result on Rally Jordan as a part of the official WRC calendar. Dennis Kuipers claimed ninth, with Bernardo Sousa rounding out the final top ten to score a championship point to add to his SWRC laurels, despite a late suspension problem.
“In the end it was okay,” reflected the Portuguese ace. “We were pushing a lot, but we kept it on the road. In the left-hand corners, we had to be cautious not to put too much pressure on the shock. I'm delighted with this win.”
Rally Jordan: Final overall standings (Top 10):
1. Sebastien Ogier Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC 2hrs 48mins 28.2secs M
2. Jari-Matti Latvala Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +00mins 00.2secs M
3. Sebastien Loeb Citroen Total WRT DS3 WRC +00mins 27.7secs M
4. Mikko Hirvonen Ford Abu Dhabi WRT Fiesta RS WRC +02mins 44.7secs M
5. Matthew Wilson M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +05mins 44.9secs A0
6. Kimi Raikkonen ICE1 Racing Citroen DS3 WRC +06mins 14.9secs M
7. Federico Villagra Munchis Ford WRT Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 18.7secs M
8. Khalid Al-Qassimi Team Abu Dhabi Fiesta RS WRC +09mins 43.7secs M
9. Dennis Kuipers FERM Powertools Ford Fiesta RS WRC +14mins 27.5secs M
10. Bernardo Sousa Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta S2000 +15mins 05.5secs S
13. Mads Ostberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +17mins 35.7secs M
14. Henning Solberg M-Sport Stobart Ford Fiesta RS WRC +22mins 01.7secs M
Final SWRC standings (Top 3):
1. Bernardo Sousa Team Quinta do Lorde Fiesta S2000 3hrs 03mins 33.7secs S
2. Karl Kruuda ME3 Rally Team Skoda Fabia S2000 +00mins 21.7secs S
3. Hermann Gassner Jnr Red Bull Skoda S2000 +02mins 22.1secs S
Petter Solberg PSWRT Citroen DS3 WRC
Nasser Al-Attiyah Barwa Rally Team Fiesta S2000
Peter Van Merksteijn Van Merksteijn Citroen DS3 WRC
all times unofficial