15 September 2013
Rally Australia: Ogier tantalisingly close to title after Oz victory
Meeke re-started on Sunday under the Rally 2 regulations and was on course for P12 overall and two vital manufacturers' points, when he also hit trouble in Shipmans 2. The incident broke the left rear suspension and while he completed the stage, he was unable to get back to service. As a result Citroen misses out on five vital Manufacturers' points, which allows VW to increase its 26 points advantage to 48.
Volkswagen number two driver Jari-Matti Latvala held on to fourth, although he also picked up a left-rear puncture in Shipmans 2, and like Hirvonen, had no idea what had caused the failure: “I can tell you I am 100 per cent sure I didn't hit anything. I have no idea what happened to the tyre,” said the Finn after a rather mediocre showing.
Behind, Mads Ostberg rounded out the top five in his Qatar M-Sport Fiesta RS WRC and despite having been aiming for a podium pre-event, insisted he was happy with the result given he had a couple of scares along the way - most notably in SS8 on Friday, when he hit a big rock.
“We have learned so much about this event and it was quite different to what we expected – even after the recce. There were a lot of difficult things – and things that didn't go to plan. It was better for us to back off and the result was a positive. I'm happy to be at the end now,” he said.
Volkswagen Motorsport II pilot Andreas Mikkelsen came in sixth, a good showing given it was his first event with Paul Nagle calling the pacenotes. Mikkelsen's regular co-driver, Mikko Markkula is on an injury enforced absence.
“Paul and I had a good weekend,” Mikkelsen summarised. “We lost a lot of time running first on the road on the second day but we have achieved what we aimed for today. It's been a fantastic weekend and a big learning curve.”
Further back, Evgeny Novikov took seventh, while Nathan Quinn gave the locals something to cheer about by taking eighth on his debut in a WRC car. Quinn ran in the points in his Motorsport Italia-run MINI John Cooper Works WRC pretty much throughout and was emotional at the finish.
“I'm pretty stoked,” he said, fighting back tears. “We've got to thank a lot of people. It's a victory for me to be here now – today. We hoped we could get through – so this is pretty awesome.”
Of the rest, Abu Dhabi Citroen Total WRT man Khalid Al-Qassimi took ninth, with Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari rounding out the top-ten in his Ford Fiesta RRC.
In addition to claiming the final 'senior' WRC point, Al-Kuwari also won the WRC2 category, a result that lifts him ahead of Robert Kubica and puts him back on top in the WRC2 Drivers' Championship. Kubica was not competing in Australia this weekend (it was not one of his nominated events), and was instead taking in Rally Poland, the ninth round in the European Rally Championship.
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