Championship leader Sebastien Ogier suffered his first no score of the season last weekend on Rally Finland.
Ogier ran third overall for much of the first full day of competition on Friday, despite having to run first on the road in his Polo R WRC.
However a “stupid mistake”
in SS10, when he slid off and got stuck in a ditch, cost him over 15 minutes, dropping him out of contention, although he did still score a few Manufacturers' points for VW, recovering from 56th position to 24th.
He was also fortunate in that his closest rival in the Drivers' Championship - VW Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen - only finished in seventh, thereby only reducing the gap by 6 points, from 51 points to 45 with six events to go.
“The best news of the day for Julien [Ingrassia, my co-driver] and me is that we are now spared the role of road sweeper for a while [with a sequence of asphalt events coming up],” Ogier said. “I have had to do this [sweep the road] for half a year now, and it is extremely tiring mentally to constantly having to battle with the difficult route conditions.
“I am now looking forward to Rally Germany [next month], where the conditions will hopefully be good for everyone and we will hopefully be involved in a nice battle for the win.
“Apart from the mistake, I was very happy with our pace. We could have been looking at third place.
“Congratulations to Kris [Meeke] and his team [too]. It goes without saying that he was able to drive without any pressure and benefitted from his starting position. However, he also produced an absolutely flawless and very impressive performance.”
Speaking on Friday, Ogier confirmed that the off in Surkee 2 was purely down to him: “There is a hairpin turn at the point at which I was too hard on the steering and wanted to cut the corner. As a result, I slid into the ditch on the inside. It was totally my mistake, and then at perhaps one of the slowest sections of the entire rally of all places.
“But that can happen when, like Julien and I, you have constantly been at the limit for the last six rallies or need to give 110 percent to try and make up for the disadvantage of the starting position.”
Meanwhile, VW boss Jost Capito said the error in SS10 shows Ogier is only human.
“The rally certainly did not pan out as hoped for Sebastien and Julien, but you just have to put their costly slip-up down as a small error with a big consequence – after all, even world champions are only human,” Capito concluded.