Sebastien Ogier took the spoils on Rally Sweden on Sunday to give Volkswagen its very first win with the Polo R WRC.
Ogier, who took the runners-up spot on the season opener in Monte Carlo last month, began by setting the pace in qualifying and although he was then only ninth in the short Karlstad super special, which kicked off proceedings on Thursday night, he soon re-asserted his dominance.
Indeed he seized the initiative in the very first test on Friday morning and after that was never headed, winning five of the first day's six 'proper' stages and eventually ending up with a 31.4 second advantage after SS8.
On Saturday, Ogier saw his lead trimmed to 25.2 seconds on the first loop, however, on the repeat runs, the Frenchman left no doubt as to who was in charge, setting the joint quickest time in SS13, before winning outright SS14 and SS15. The Polo R WRC pilot then concluded the day with the second best time in SS16, leaving him with a 26.9 second advantage going into the final day.
That meant he could pace himself to the finish, and while Sebastien Loeb tried to apply the pressure first thing and took a hat-trick of stages wins on the first loop, Ogier resisted, and eventually triumphed by 41.8 seconds, winning the event ending Power Stage just for good measure.
It was a historic result, as not only was its VW's first WRC win with the Polo, and in only the team's second WRC event with it, but it was also only the second time a non-Scandinavian has triumphed in Sweden. Ogier now moves to the top of the WRC drivers' championship.
“It was a perfect weekend,” Ogier told WRC Live
at the finish. “It is unbelievable. We never expected this. It is a big surprise, but I feel good.”
Loeb meanwhile had to be content with the runners-up spot after his poor run in qualifying on Thursday cost him dear. That left the Frenchman out of position on day one and as a result he conceded too much time to Ogier. Although he was right back on the pace on the two subsequent days, he was unable to get back on level terms.
“A bad time in qualifying and a not so good road position on Friday hurt me,” Loeb admitted. “I had a good rhythm, but Ogier made no mistakes. He drove the perfect rally. There was nothing more to do.”
Behind, Mads Ostberg gave the Qatar M-Sport WRT its first podium result. The Norwegian had hoped to challenge for the win, but he lost precise time on Friday morning with overheating problems. That landed him with a 20-second penalty and while he hauled himself back up with a string of competitive stage times, taking third from Jari-Matti Latvala in SS14 on Saturday, he could do nothing about Loeb and Ogier ahead.