Sébastien Ogier clinched back-to-back world drivers’ titles by winning RallyRACC - Rally de España on Sunday.
He took victory by 11.3sec in a Volkswagen Polo R from team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, the only man who could beat him to the crown. The Frenchman becomes the eighth driver to lift the title more than once and did so with one round remaining.
Ogier built a comfortable lead on the first full day of the mixed-surface event. Latvala, who was disappointed with his speed on that gravel leg, attacked hard during the final two days on asphalt but an unflustered Ogier measured his pace perfectly.
His only scare came on Saturday afternoon when he drove 20km with a damaged tyre, fearful it would deflate and require him to stop and replace it.
“It’s a great achievement to win one title but even better to take a second,” said Ogier, after embracing his parents at the finish of the final stage. “It’s a confirmation and proves the first title was not a one-off.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend, but it was tough. I pushed so hard on leg one and it was a long two days on Tarmac where I had to watch Jari-Matti flying. I had to be clever and keep watching him all the time,” he added.
Ogier’s victory was the 23rd of his career and Volkswagen’s 11th of the season, equaling the record set by Citroen in 2005 and 2008.
Mikko Hirvonen’s third place in a Ford Fiesta RS was his second podium of the year, the Finn too strong for Mads Østberg and Andreas Mikkelsen on asphalt. He finished 1min 42.2sec behind Ogier and 31.1sec ahead of Østberg, a Saturday afternoon puncture ending Mikkelsen’s hopes.
Dani Sordo closed on Østberg throughout the final leg in his Hyundai i20 but the Spaniard fell 8.9sec short in fifth. A first-leg error when co-driver Marc Marti miscalculated a stage start time and they waited for almost 30sec proved costly.
Mikkelsen passed Thierry Neuville for sixth in the penultimate stage. However, he incurred a 10sec penalty after a timing error at the start of the final test and dropped behind again.
Martin Prokop, Hayden Paddon and Nasser Al-Attiyah completed the leaderboard, Al-Attiyah inheriting 10th when Ken Block punctured a front left tyre in the final stage.
Unseasonably high temperatures ensured tough conditions for tyres and brakes during the 17 stages covering 372.96km in the Tarragona region, south of Barcelona.
The final round, Wales Rally GB, is based at Deeside on 13 - 16 November.