Citroen Junior Team's Sebastien Ogier took a hugely satisfying maiden win in Portugal at the weekend, a result that moves the youngster up to second in the 2010 WRC drivers' standings.
Ogier has come on in leaps and bounds this season, and led the sixth round in the World Rally Championship pretty much throughout, seizing P1 in the second 'proper' stage.
The Frenchman began the final day with a 21.1 second cushion over Sebastien Loeb and despite having to run first on the road, he managed to hold off his compatriot and return to the service park after the opening loop still 10.1 seconds in front.
“We tried not to take any stupid risks this morning,” said Ogier after SS15. “From the start of the rally, we've not had any big moments even though we've been quite close to the limit. We expected to lose time through being first on the road today.
“Now we're going to try to stay in front again this afternoon, but the road conditions should be less of a disadvantage. We all know what Seb is capable of but I'm going to be trying my hardest!”
On the repeat loop, Ogier was more or less able to match the times set by Loeb, just dropping 0.6 seconds in SS16 and 1.8 seconds in SS17. By the time he got to the final spectator superspecial Ogier still had a lead of 7.7 seconds, allowing him to seal victory over the last two kilometres of the rally in a 30,000 capacity stadium.
“We pushed all the way to the end,” Ogier stated. “It's a huge satisfaction to win. It's difficult to explain the feeling now. I am very, very happy. A few weeks ago it was a big disappointment not to win in New Zealand but now we are on the top step of the podium.
“This weekend was just perfect. We pushed very hard from the start to the last day and I have the first victory. To get this against Séb, it's very good. He is the best driver in rally and the best in history; he is the reference for everybody. I have to thank the entire team: this is a massive moment for me.”
Citroen Junior manager Benoit Nogier meanwhile conceded that he never expected to see the 'B' team win: “Victory was never an objective for our team but it's a fantastic gift that fate has bestowed on us here,” Nogier added. “Sébastien deserved this success as he has driven a fantastic rally since the shakedown.
“He has seen off the person who is undoubtedly the best rally driver in the world, all the time while running first on the road. This victory does not change the objectives of the Citroën Junior Team though. We're going to continue down our chosen path so that Sébastien and Kimi [Raikkonen - his team-mate] can continue to make progress.”