BLOG: Autumnal Glory @WalesRallyGB: Ogier & Volkswagen Motorsport History & Some Rally Ramblings..

The new half term slot for the new-sponsor Dayinsure Wales Rally GB as the penultimate, not final round of the WRC calendar (with Rally Australia still to go) saw the stunning, legendary Welsh forest stages looking prettier than ever, bursting with Autumn colour. And we still had all the fabulous Wales Rally GB hallmarks – stunning scenery, monster special stages, dense fog, slippery, tricky conditions, big offs (a flying Craig Breen, sadly), good scraps, huge crowds and rain (although less of it than usual, thankfully!). The new-look rally was praised by drivers and spectators as huge success, rightly so. 
It was majestic. 

Especially if you name was Sébastien Ogier – already now a four-times WRC champion and also now entering the record books as a four-times winner of this epic event, going down in rally history along with superstars Hannu Mikkola and Petter Solberg in an elite club of four-time winners on British soil. Respect! 

And Ogier's record win (he's led this event for the past four year's now, never dropping P1!) brought a richly deserved fourth consecutive Manufacturers’ crown for Volkswagen Motorsport – aided by a fantastically committed power stage P2 points flourish by Andreas Mikkelsen, which was one of the highlights of the event, as he hurled his Polo R WRC up and over the limit through the final short stage... awesome driving! 

Sadly, his rally and Jari-Matti Latvala's did not go to plan, with a mixture of technical and driver issues – leaving Ogier to fight for both titles simultaneously alone for Volkswagen Motorsport glory. And his wins are nothing short of miraculous – especially when you consider this is his first gravel event win of the year. Carlos Sainz used to have the title 'Mr Consistency' – always scoring podium points – but surely Ogier has stolen his crown? Almost anyway El Matador...

“To draw equal on wins here with Petter and Hannu is incredible – they’re two of the giants of our sport,” Ogier said. “It’s always a huge challenge to win in Wales. It’s funny – a few years ago, this was one of my least favourite rallies on the calendar as I really found it difficult to master and now it’s one I always really enjoy. The stages are beautiful and you’re always on the limit and close to the edge.

“For me, one of the highlights of the weekend was meeting so many spectators in Chester and Cholmondeley – it was a great idea to include a donut in the middle of the stage there, because people love to see these cars sliding around. I think we’ve made a lot of fans happy this weekend, which is really rewarding; I’m already looking forward to returning next year!”

Perhaps the drive of the event went to Ott Tänak of M-Sport – still to secure his seat for 2017, unbelievably – who was the only one with a shout of spoiling the Ogier/VW party, finishing just 10-seconds behind the champ in what is generally accepted to be a 'less able car.' He also managed to beat Mikkelsen's power stage time. How he did that is beyond me! Fair play Ott! You deserve a seat for 2017 and are sure to be a championship winner one day, in our view. 

“I really enjoyed this rally,” reflected the DMACK World Rally Team driver. “It’s always one of the toughest events of the year and GB is a true classic on the WRC calendar with a lot of history behind it. These stages are some of the best in the world and in what were pretty challenging conditions at times, it was an exciting fight with Seb all the way through.”

And underscoring Dayinsure Wales Rally GB’s international appeal, the final top eight finishers comprised eight different nationalities. Belgian ace Thierry Neuville prevailed in a Hyundai scrap for the final spot on the podium with New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon to secure the Korean manufacturer’s maiden rostrum finish in the UK, while Britain’s Kris Meeke placed fifth on the competitive swansong for Abu Dhabi World Rally Team’s Citroën DS3 WRC, and was clearly disappointed.

As he came over the line on the power stage, co-driver Paul Nagle optimistically asked "do you think we were quickest?" to which bleak Meeke replied a solitary "NO!" And he spent most of the final day just sounding characteristically angry and "looking forward to 2017." 

Maybe all the testing Meeke's been doing developing the new big bhp, big aero 2017 Citroen to rival Volkswagen, Ford and the new Toyota WRC car will pay off in 12 months and he'll get his Welsh win? Nicky Grist certainly seems to think so and he knows his onions. Only time will tell. Meantime, we're sorry to say, he's not really representing himself very positively in the sport, which is a shame in my opinion and something his mentor certainly avoided. Sure it must be enormously disappointing to not do so well on an event you want to win in front of home crowds, but, as Didier Auriol famously said with a Gallic shrug "iz rallying, non?" Then you see the new-breed smiling and talented faces of Østberg, Mikkelsen, Neuville, Tänak and Paddon enjoying their fabulous sport and Meeke looking miserable and moaning on Twitter, doing what is surely the best job in the world... it does him no favours, in our view.
We'll shut up now.    
Putting a more reflectively positive spin on things,  event Managing Director Ben Taylor said: “What a wonderful weekend it has been. The move to a half-term date made for better weather for spectators and a new challenge for competitors; it was fantastic to see so many families in the Deeside Rally Village, at Cholmondeley, in Chester and out on the stages.

“In fact, it was great to see so many fans of all ages enjoying the action and I would like to congratulate Sébastien, Julien and Volkswagen Motorsport on their success. We must also thank everybody involved in making this rally such a great success, especially the 2,000 volunteer marshals without whom none of this would be possible.”

We'd like to say bravo to the whole Wales Rally GB team. The new-look event is better than ever and we can't wait to be a part of it again next year! 

Wales Rally GB 2017 Final Classification 1. Sébastien Ogier / Julien Ingrassia (FRA/FRA) VW Polo R WRC 3h 14m30.2s
2. Ott Tänak / Raigo Mõlder (EST/EST) Ford Fiesta RS WRC +10.2s
3. Thierry Neuville / Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL/BEL) Hyundai i20 WRC +1m35.4s
4. Hayden Paddon / John Kennard (NZL/NZL) Hyundai i20 WRC +1m54.9s
5. Kris Meeke / Paul Nagle (GBR/IRL) Citroën DS3 WRC +2m35.2s
6. Dani Sordo / Marc Martí (ESP/ESP) Hyundai i20 WRC +4m02.6s
7. Mads Østberg / Ola Fløene (NOR/NOR) Ford Fiesta RS WRC +4m28.3s
8. Jari-Matti Latvala / Miikka Anttila (FIN/FIN) VW Polo R WRC +4m38.3s
9. Stéphane Lefebvre / G. De Turckheim (FRA/FRA) Citroën DS3 WRC +7m12.2s
10. Eric Camilli / Benjamin Veillas (FRA/FRA) Ford Fiesta RS WRC +8m19.3s


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