Sébastien Ogier came ‘close to perfection’ during Sunday’s thrilling final day shootout with Jari-Matti Latvala in which he sealed a record-breaking fifth Dayinsure Wales Rally GB win.
He reignited hopes of a sixth consecutive FIA World Rally Championship title after a roller-coaster 10.6sec victory in the Welsh forests, secured with a hat-trick of wins in the final three speed tests to overhaul the Finn.
After losing his slender overnight lead to Latvala in the opening two tests, Ogier stormed back to the front with a crushing drive in his Ford Fiesta through the repeated Gwydir forest special stage.
“Jari-Matti was determined to win himself and was very quick, which forced us to react. Luckily I was able to finish the rally with three perfect stages, especially Gwydir, which was as close to perfection as I can get,” he explained.
“I needed to be strong on the last pass in the forest. I gave everything I had. The plan was to at least match his pace. When I crossed the line I said to Julien (co-driver Ingrassia): ‘I cannot do more – whatever is the time, that’s the best I can do’.”
Ogier was 3.3sec faster than his former team-mate and extended his lead in the final asphalt street stage in Llandudno after Latvala acknowledged the fight was over.
“I could not do more. Seb and Julien did an amazing time. We went to the final stage and I didn’t necessarily have a chance. I tried, but 2km into the stage we went wide and hit the kerb and I felt the wheel started to toe out so I said ‘OK, let’s finish’,” Latvala explained.
Ogier became the first driver to win the rally five times, an unlikely prospect on Friday morning when a broken gearbox left him floundering in eighth.
After beginning the weekend 23 points adrift of championship leader Thierry Neuville, Ogier slashed the gap to seven with two rounds remaining in Spain and Australia.
“This is a great step and we’re back on track for the championship. I would not say we’re where we want to be, but close. I had the feeling my luck was a bit gone sometimes, and it started like this on Friday, but finally it turned my way again,” Ogier added.