Sebastien Ogier claimed his eighth win of the 2015 World Rally Championship season at the final round of the year at Wales Rally GB.
Ogier led the rally from the very first stage, with the Frenchman battling through the traditional treacherous conditions at Wales Rally GB to lead home the Citroën of Kris Meeke and the sister Volkswagen of Andreas Mikkelsen, who finished in third.
“It’s the best way to finish the season, but there’s no point to celebrate anything today,” said a subdued Ogier at the end of the final stage, referring to the tragic events in Paris on Friday night and after draping the French flag on his windscreen rather than celebrating on top of his Volkswagen Polo. “It’s been a difficult weekend.”
The Hyundai pairing of Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon finished fourth and fifth, with M-Sport’s local hero Elfyn Evans in sixth. Mads Østberg finished seventh to give Citroën second in the Manufacturers’ championship, while Stéphane Lefebvre was eighth, Robert Kubica was ninth and Lorenzo Bertelli was 10th.
Despite crashing out of contention earlier in the rally, Volkswagen’s Jari-Matti Latvala won the Power Stage to ensure that he finished second in the Drivers’ championship, ahead of Andreas Mikkelsen.
Kris Meeke looked like the driver most likely to challenge the Volkswagens in Wales as he drove to an excellent second-place finish.
At the scene of his first ever rally was back in 2002, Meeke showed great speed and commitment all weekend in his Citroën DS 3 WRC, even drawing a compliment from Sébastien Ogier on Friday evening, who said on Twitter: “Meeke is driving very well. It won’t be easy to win this rally, it will never be a relax[ed] drive.”
With Meeke’s place in the Citroën team not guaranteed for 2016, the Northern Irishman’s drive was the best possible piece of self-promotion – but the French team will need to start seeing consistency to go with Meeke’s undoubted speed if he does get the nod for next year.
Wales Rally GB witnessed one of the most tense Power Stages in recent times, as Hyundai and Citroën battled it out to see who would finish second in the Manufacturers’ title race. In the end it was Citroën who came out on top in the fight, with Kris Meeke and Mads Østberg’s second and seventh places just trumping Dani Sordo and Hayden Paddon’s fourth and fifth places.
The undoubted star attraction at Wales Rally GB was local favourite Elfyn Evans, with the M-Sport driver having grown up just a few miles away from the rally’s Gartheiniog stage in the village of Dolgellau. A puncture on day one cost Evans a chance of putting in a challenge at the front of the pack, but he climbed back up the order to finish sixth by the rally end.
Citroën have let Stéphane Lefebvre loose in a full-spec DS 3 WRC car for a number of rounds this season, after the Frenchman claimed the WRC3 and Junior WRC categories last year. In Wales, Lefebvre recorded the best-ever finish of his career, steering the car through the challenging Welsh forests to finish eighth overall. With Citroën seemingly bringing Lefebvre quickly through the ranks, will we see him in the car permanently next season?
Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon said before the rally start that if there wasn’t lots of rain and mud at Wales Rally GB, it wouldn’t be Wales Rally GB. The rally definitely rewards the brave and the committed while quickly punishing even the smallest error, as Thierry Neuville found out on the Dyfnant stage…