Volkswagen's Sebasten Ogier took a 'big step' towards successfully defending his WRC title this weekend when he won Rally Poland.
The 2013 World Rally Champion has now extended his lead over team-mate and closest championship rival, Jari-Matti Latvala to 50 points as the WRC heads into its summer hiatus.
It was Ogier's second victory on the trot, his fifth of the 2014 season - after also winning in Sardinia, Portugal, Mexico and Monte Carlo - and the 21st of his WRC career.
“It's just brilliant – this win was an important one in the world championship stakes! It is a big step for the championship,” said Ogier.
“Julien [Ingrassia – my co-driver] and I had a perfect rally here in Poland. The stages were incredibly quick – and the huge numbers of fans along the way were simply brilliant. As a driver, you can enjoy every single kilometre. On the final day today, there were some wonderful stretches again where I had to force myself not to go at full pelt. Because obviously we didn't want to jeopardise our lead too much.
“I'd like to say a huge thank-you to my team, who provided me with a perfect car every day. The Polo R WRC is simply a great car to drive. You can hurtle through the forest at 200 km/h and everything works like Swiss precision clockwork.”
Ogier eventually won by 1 minute 7.7 seconds, but it was nip-and-tuck between him and Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen on Thursday and Friday, with never more than a few seconds between them.
“Andreas did a great job here,” Ogier added. “[But] I knew on the first days I had a disadvantage by opening the road and [that] if I could maintain the same rhythm after that I would be okay.”
Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito meanwhile was delighted with yet another 1-2 result. He was also pleased to see Jari-Matti Latvala come back and take fifth after the Finn hit a rock in SS14 and damaged the front suspension on his Polo R WRC – the same rock also took out Mads Ostberg and Elfyn Evans.
“What a great premiere for Volkswagen in Rally Poland! This WRC event was terra incognita for our team, so securing the fourth one-two victory of the year here and extending our run of [victory] successes [to eleven] is a huge achievement for the entire team,” he added.
“Sebastien was once again in a class of his own in the tough conditions, Andreas demonstrated why he likes fast and smooth tracks, and Jari-Matti put in a strong catching-up performance. The mechanics pulled off a major feat to put his Polo R WRC back in the running, so it's hats off to them. After four long, hard rally days with very little sleep, we all deserve a beer.”