The race for victory at the 2014 Vodafone Rally de Portugal was decided by one thing: which driver could make their tyres last the longest on the dry and abrasive gravel stages. Not for the first time, that man was VW’s Sebastien Ogier.
Having taken three victories in four years heading into last season’s event, the Frenchman was well versed in what was required to overcome the pitfalls that the rally can throw at competitors.
After carefully balancing the speed of his VW Polo R WRC with the need to nurse his soft Michelin rubber – particularly on Saturday afternoon – Ogier secured a masterful 43.2s victory over M-Sport's Mikko Hirvonen.
It was the Finn’s best result of the season in his Ford Fiesta RS and his speed was enough to see off the challenge of Citroën’s Mads Østberg who was third, a further 29.2s behind in his DS 3 WRC.
“This wasn’t an easy one,” Ogier admitted. “Mikko put pressure on me, especially on the first day. It made a big difference, with what is one of my main strengths, that I was able to manage the tyres and then we were able to relax a little bit.”
Ogier won the final live TV Power Stage to cap a perfect weekend in Portugal. His clean-sweep of points gave VW its eighth consecutive WRC victory, a result that equalled the record set by Citroën in 2011.
“Portugal is a place I love to drive and now I have four wins from five starts in a World Rally Car here,” Ogier said as he accepted a novel gift from rally organisers at Sunday’s presentation ceremony – a barrel of olive oil that matched his body weight!