There was triple delight in the FIA World Rally Championship this afternoon as Sébastien Ogier swept to his first victory of the hybrid-powered Rally1 era – and his 55th in total – a result that also marked a maiden WRC win for his co-driver Benjamin Veillas and helped Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT clinch the coveted Manufacturers’ title*
Frenchman Ogier is contesting a part-time campaign for Toyota this season after claiming his eighth WRC crown with Julien Ingrassia in 2021. Despite has lack of seat time compared to his rivals, the 38-year-old took control of this penultimate round of the year when he posted a trio of fastest times across the middle of the three-day asphalt event.
Driving a GR Yaris Rally1, Ogier carried a 20.7s lead into today’s final leg and could afford to negotiate the final four speed stages without taking excessive risks. He did exactly that, clinching victory by 16.4s, but still underlined his rapid pace by winning the deciding two stages, including the Wolf Power Stage.
Thierry Neuville finished second for the Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team with Kalle Rovanperä, who became the youngest winner of the FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers* aged 22 and one day in New Zealand earlier this month, completing the podium and putting Toyota’s makes’ award beyond doubt.
With one round remaining, the Japanese manufacturer holds an unassailable 93-point lead over Hyundai with M-Sport Ford World Rally Team safe in third place.
Afterwards, Ogier said: “It’s Benji’s first win so I am very happy for him. It’s fantastic to get this win because it was an important weekend for the team. It’s not always easy to achieve such results and this season has been very dominant, so congratulations to Toyota Gazoo Racing.”
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT team principal Jari-Matti Latvala added: “It’s great to secure the title here. The last rally in Japan is the home round for Toyota so now we can be much more relaxed going there. If we can win there, we can have even bigger celebrations.”
Behind Ogier, Neuville stole the runner-up spot from Rovanperä late on Saturday afternoon and was poised for a tight scrap with the young Finn – the pair just 1.4s apart heading into leg three. That battle never materialised, however, as Rovanperä damaged a front left tyre when he drove over a drainage hole on this morning’s second stage. At the final control, Neuville’s margin was 18.1s.
Ott Tänak finished fourth, 44.0s off the lead, with the Estonian never quite finding the perfect set-up for his Hyundai i20 N Rally1 and trailed Rovanperä by 9.5s.
Home hero Dani Sordo finished 32.5s further back after a mixed weekend. He lacked pace for the first day-and-a-half until set-up tweaks at Saturday’s midpoint unlocked a sudden turn of speed.
Unfortunately, those tweaks came too little too late and, despite taking a brace of stage wins, including SS16 before daylight broke this morning, Sordo was left to rue what might have been.
Also feeling dejected was sixth-placed Elfyn Evans. The Welshman felt he was lacking performance throughout the rally and a damaged front-left tyre in the same place as team-mate Rovanperä on the first run of Riudecanyes compounded his woes.
Takamoto Katsuta and Adrien Fourmaux were seventh and eighth as both drivers gained a position at the expense of Fourmaux’s M-Sport Ford Puma colleague Craig Breen, who also had tyre dramas after hitting a hole and charging a bank on SS17.
Breen eventually finished ninth overall as co-driver Paul Nagle signed off from his co-driving career after 102 WRC starts. Pierre-Louis Loubet, also driving a Puma, completed the top 10 having been delayed by a damaged tyre of his own earlier in the event.
Teemu Suninen won FIA WRC2 for Hyundai Motorsport N with a 32.5s winning margin over PH Sport Citroën driver Yohan Rossel. Nikolay Gryazin finished third and took top WRC2 Junior honours. Armin Kremer claimed the WRC Masters honours as Lauri Joona beat Jan Černý in a thrilling fight for FIA WRC3 glory in their identical Ford Fiesta Rally3s. Emmanuel Guigou won FIA RGT with ease aboard his Alpine A110.
The 50th FIA World Rally Championship season concludes with an all-new asphalt event, FORUM8 Rally Japan, from November 10-13.
Follow this link for the provisional results: https://www.wrc.com/en/wrcplus/live-timing/
*Subject to publication of final results and confirmation by the FIA