World Rally Cham­pion Se­bastien Ogier was in Wales last week to run the first of a three-day test of VW’S 2017 Polo R WRC mule. Ogier drove on Thurs­day with his team-mates Jari-matti Lat­vala and An­dreas Mikkelsen run­ning the car on the fol­low­ing days. RALL

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans

Se­bastien Ogier starts this week’s Dayin­sure Wales Rally GB know­ing it could be his best re­main­ing chance to win a gravel round of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship this sea­son.

The French­man, who cap­tured his fourth-straight world ti­tle on Rally Spain ear­lier this month, ad­mits he’s be­mused at his lack of suc­cess on the loose this sea­son.

“It’s a lit­tle bit strange that I didn’t win on gravel this sea­son,” he told MN. “But I think we have an idea why this is [be­cause of the run­ning or­der]. But this makes Wales even more im­por­tant for me. I want to win on the gravel, it’s my favourite sur­face and Wales is a rally which I re­ally en­joy.”

Ogier is well aware this week rep­re­sents his best chance for that win, with next month’s 2016 fi­nale, Rally Aus­tralia mov­ing into a late spring-early sum­mer date and the clean­ing ef­fect from run­ning at the front of the field will be ac­cen­tu­ated by warmer and drier con­di­tions in New South Wales.

The French­man com­pleted his Wales Rally GB hat-trick last sea­son, but there were no cel­e­bra­tions for him and co-driver Julien In­gras­sia, who were still reeling from the shock­ing ter­ror­ist at­tack in Paris the same week­end.

Ogier ad­mits his feel­ings to­wards Rally GB have changed over the years. He made a huge im­pres­sion on Bri­tain’s round of the WRC on his de­but year in 2008. Driv­ing a Citroen C4 WRC for the first time, Ogier led in the icy con­di­tions be­fore crash­ing out on the se­cond day.

“That first stage was un­be­liev­able,” he said. “But also in that same year, I re­alised just how tricky this event re­ally is. And it is dif­fi­cult, the weather is al­ways mak­ing it quite hard, but that year it was more than rain. The con­di­tions were re­ally ex­treme and I found out that there can be ice un­der­neath the mud.

“I was mak­ing some fast times, but re­ally I had no idea of the risks I was tak­ing to make these times. The risk was over the limit; it took a cou­ple of stages, but the re­al­ity caught up with me and I was com­ing back to nor­mal: we crashed. I re­mem­bered then, I was a be­gin­ner.”

Ogier claimed his first win in Wales three years ago and hasn’t looked back – or been beaten since.

“I have learned this rally,” he said, “and I have learned to love it. Julien [In­gras­sia, co-driver] and I al­ways say this when we come to Wales, the place is beau­ti­ful, and the pro­file of the stages is also beau­ti­ful. But the weather can be dif­fi­cult some­times. It’s def­i­nitely one of the big chal­lenges of the sea­son and now I un­der­stand how much ex­pe­ri­ence you need for this rally.”

Route co-or­di­na­tor An­drew Kellitt knows this week’s roads in­ti­mately and he can of­fer an up-to-the-minute guide of what’s com­ing the way of Se­bastien Ogier and co when they line up at the stage start.

VW is likely to clinch a fourth straight man­u­fac­tur­ers’ ti­tle at this week’s Dayin­sure Wales Rally GB.

Vic­tory for Se­bastien Ogier or Jari-matti Lat­vala would be enough for the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer to re­tain its crown. Cru­cially, Volk­swa­gen needs to re­tain 43 points from its cur­rent ad­van­tage of 62 over its near­est ri­val Hyundai.

Of equal in­ter­est is a five-way fight for se­cond in the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship. An­dreas Mikkelsen’s Span­ish crash al­lowed his friend and ri­val Thierry Neuville to bridge the gap be­tween se­cond and third, with the pair now tied on 127 points.

Hay­den Pad­don and Dani Sordo are 13 and 15 points adrift re­spec­tively, Jari-matti Lat­vala is 23 down on se­cond spot, while Mads Ost­berg is the rank out­sider in the race for the sea­sonal sil­ver medal – the M-sport driver would need to win both ral­lies and have prac­ti­cally no­body else fin­ish to el­e­vate him­self to the run­ner-up spot.

Ogier has learned to love Rally GB

VW is set to land makes’ quadru­ple

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