Sébastien Ogier claimed a thrilling last-gasp victory at Rally Sweden on Sunday after team-mate Andreas Mikkelsen spun away a maiden WRC victory almost within sight of the finish.
In the most exciting WRC finale for years, Ogier kept his cool to overturn a 3.0sec deficit in the final 15.87km special stage, while holding off Thierry Neuville in a titanic three-car tussle through the snowy forests of central Sweden.
Just 4.6sec covered the trio heading to the final live TV Power Stage. Interim times showed Mikkelsen remained on target to win as he entered the final section of the stage, but his Volkswagen Polo R touched a bank and was dragged into deep snow.
Ogier was already at the finish line and punched the air as news of Mikkelsen’s mistake was relayed to him, the Frenchman beating Neuville by 6.4sec.
“This was one of the most exciting WRC events,” he said. “It’s a crazy win because I had to push flat out from the beginning of the rally to the end. My first win here two years ago was a hard fight, but I had to play everything here in the final stage and it was a fantastic end. Andreas did a great job and he’s very young so we’ll have many more future battles.
“I made only one mistake on Friday and apart from that I’m proud to have kept the car on the road at that level of speed,” added Ogier.
An emotional Mikkelsen recovered to take third, 33.4sec behind Neuville, and the Norwegian said: “We gave it all in the last stage, but there was a bank full of snow and we were stuck. We tried and hopefully we’ll get more luck next time.”
Neuville led going into the final day but a faulty intercom and a brush with a snow bank earlier this morning allowed Ogier through, and the consistent Belgian was happy with second after the final stage showdown.
Ott Tänak finished fourth in a Ford Fiesta RS after Citroen’s Mads Østberg lost more than five minutes buried in a snow bank in this morning’s opening stage. Hayden Paddon, replacing the injured Dani Sordo, scored a career-best fifth in another i20.
Elfyn Evans was sixth after Kris Meeke’s determined effort to displace him ended in a high-speed spin in the final test. Meeke remained seventh, both Britons having relegated Martin Prokop to eighth earlier when the Czech driver almost rolled his Fiesta RS.
Yuriy Protasov and Østberg completed the leaderboard, while the Volkswagen team retired Jari-Matti Latvala in service after the final stage.
Round three of the FIA World Rally Championship takes competitors to Rally Guanajuato Mexico (5 - 8 March) for the season’s opening gravel round.
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